Ukraine voters embrace West and peace with rebels By Sebastian Smith and Dmitry Zaks33 minutes ago Kiev (AFP) – Pro-Western and nationalist parties were on course Monday for a crushing Ukrainian election win, boosting President Petro Poroshenko’s bid to merge his country with Europe and make peace with pro-Russian rebels.Related Stories
Early results and exit polls indicated overwhelming support for Poroshenko’s drive to break his war-torn country out of Russia’s orbit despite the painful economic measures the Kremlin has levied on its western neighbour in reprisal.Many in Kiev and the West blame the six-month uprising in the east of the country, that has claimed 3,700 lives, on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s effort to destabilise Ukraine’s new government and create a „frozen conflict” in its vital rustbelt.But parties with links to Moscow or the old Viktor Yanukovych regime that was ousted after his abrupt rejection in February of a landmark EU pact were routed at the ballot boxes on Sunday.”I want the war to end and for out country to join the European Union, although I doubt this will happen very soon,” pensioner Bogdan Golobutskiy said as he trudged up to a Kiev polling station on a chilly but sunny morning.Radicals that rejected Poroshenko’s peace deal with the insurgents that offered them limited autonomy also had a poor showing — as did corruption-tainted politicians who had steered Ukraine through two decades of stuttering reforms.Analysts said it was almost certain that Poroshenko will have to share power with Yatsenyuk as premier.This handout picture taken and released by Presidential press-service shows Ukrainian President Petr …”Voters did not want a monopoly of power in one pair of hands,” said Vadym Karasyov of Kiev’s Institute of Global Strategies. „They voted for a Poroshenko-Yatsenyuk tandem.”- ‘Irreversible’ path to Europe -A buoyant Poroshenko said, in nationally televised comments, said „more than three quarters of voters who took part in the polls gave strong and irreversible backing to Ukraine’s path to Europe,”The 49-year-old chocolate baron said a majority also supported his search for „political methods” to end the war in the country’s industrial east.Results with 10 percent of the precincts reporting showed Poroshenko’s group with 21.9 percent of the votes. The People’s Front was a very close second with 21.6 percent.Exit polls earlier showed the president’s Petro Poroshenko Bloc leading with 23 percent of the vote.Members of a local electoral commission count ballots in a polling station in the eastern Ukrainian …Trailing a few fractions of a percentage point behind him was the People’s Front led by Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk — a more nationalist leader instrumental in Ukraine’s urgent loan negotiations with the West.The two parties are thus within striking distance of the majority needed to form a moderate government that could pursue similar policies to those both back now.Yatsenyuk is widely expected to keep his premiership post. Poroshenko did not address his current premier’s job prospects while adding that 10 days would be „more than enough” to form a new cabinet and get back to work.- Turbulent times -The vote came eight months after a winter-long popular uprising that killed more than 100 people ousted Yanukovych in February and sparked the worst standoff between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.The snap general election was called to clear out the last vestiges of the Yanukovych’s regime — a job that Poroshenko appeared to have accomplished with gusto.A Ukrainian serviceman exits a booth in a polling station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramators …The exit polls showed the socially conservative Samopomich (Self-Help) group of the mayor of Lviv — a western Ukrainian bedrock of nationalist passions — in third place with up to 14 percent of the vote.But the Opposition Bloc of former Yanukovych allies was a distant fourth with less than eight percent.Another pro-Russian party failed to qualify while the Communist Party was on course to be shut out of a Ukrainian election for the first time since its founding by Lenin nearly a century ago.The war with pro-Kremlin rebels and Russia’s earlier annexation of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimean cast a long shadow over the polls.Voters in Crimea and in separatist-controlled areas of the eastern Lugansk and Donetsk regions — about five million of Ukraine’s 36.5 million-strong electorate — were unable to take part.Twenty-seven seats in the 450-seat parliament will remain empty.Insurgent leaders intend to hold their own leadership vote that Kiev rejects next Sunday.”There is nothing good to expect from these elections in Ukraine. War, bombardments, all this horror will continue,” said 42-year-old Natalia amid a rare lull in shelling in the rebels’ main stronghold of Donetsk.- Giving negotiations a chance -A Moscow-backed peace deal signed by Kiev and the separatists on September 5 has calmed the worst fighting but is constantly broken around the disputed Donetsk airport and near the disputed southeastern port of Mariupol.Poroshenko’s insistence that there can be no military victory and that he is ready to negotiate autonomy for pro-Russian regions — though not independence — chimed with Ukrainians fearful of open-ended war.Voters came down on the side of moderates rather than more hawkish parties like the Radical Party and Fatherland — a group led by former premier and 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution leader Yulia Tymoshenko.Tymoshenko herself has been hounded by graft charges and only managed to lead her party to sixth place on Sunday with less than six percent of the vote, according to the early results.Half of the parliament seats are allocated to parties through proportional representation. The other half go to individual candidates and the counting of those races could take several days.
Pro-Europe parties secure big election win in Ukraine: exit poll By Richard Balmforth and Natalia Zinets6 hours agoA local resident places her ballot into a mobile ballot box during a parliamentary election, at her home …By Richard Balmforth and Natalia ZinetsRelated Stories
KIEV (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko hailed a sweeping victory for pro-Europe parties in an election on Sunday, saying the vote showed people backed his plan to end a separatist conflict, his pro-Western course and democratic reforms.Poroshenko’s bloc took 23 percent of the votes cast for a field of 29 competing parties, just ahead of the party of his ally, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, according to an exit poll issued after voting stations closed in the ex-Soviet republic.Addressing Ukrainians two hours after polling ended, he thanked voters for backing a „democratic, reformist, pro-Ukrainian and pro-European majority”.”The majority of voters were in favor of the political forces that support the president’s peace plan and seek a political solution to the situation in the Donbass,” Poroshenko said, referring to the region of the industrialized east where government forces have been fighting separatist rebels.The result, confirmed by other exit polls, opened up the possibility of Poroshenko, a 49-year-old confectionery magnate, continuing to work in tandem with Yatseniuk, with the latter staying as prime minister to handle sensitive talks with the West on aid for the war-shattered economy.A woman casts a ballot during a parliamentary election at a school gym in the village of Semyonovka …The People’s Front of Yatseniuk, a hawk in dealings with Russia who is liked in the West for his commitment to deep reforms and stewardship of the economy, took just over 21 percent of the vote, according to the exit poll, with a third pro-Europe party from western Ukraine in third place.Speaking later at a news conference, Poroshenko said People’s Front was the „main partner” in any parliamentary coalition and talks to form the majority could begin on Monday.He said he would like talks to be wrapped up quickly to form Ukraine’s „best government”.But a surprise was the strong performance registered by a group representing allies of ousted president Viktor Yanukovich. The Opposition Bloc of ex-Fuel Minister Yuriy Boiko was on 7.6 percent, enough to put the party into parliament.Though a fuller picture will not take shape for hours as the vote is counted, the exit polls confirmed expectations of a pro-Western assembly emerging from the first parliamentary election since Yanukovich’s overthrow by street protests in February.A member of an election commission carries a mobile election box as she cycles to collect votes from …The polls offered a reading only of party voting for 225 of the 450 seats in parliament and results from voting to single constituency seats will be known only in a few days time.The election completed attempts by Poroshenko and his allies to restore normalcy to the sprawling country of 46 million after a year of turmoil and violence.The overthrow of Yanukovich by „Euromaidan” street protests, which broke out when he ditched a deal to take Ukraine closer to Europe and out of the Russian orbit, led to Russia denouncing a „fascist” coup and annexing Ukraine’s Crimea.Moscow went on to back separatist rebellions in Ukraine’s industrialized east which have killed more than 3,700 people.Despite the surprise showing of Boiko’s Opposition Bloc, other traditional allies of Russia such as the communists flopped and the make-up of the future pro-Europe assembly seemed likely to spell future tensions with Moscow with which Ukraine is also locked in a dispute over gas prices.Members of Ukrainian government forces, who are taking part in a military operation in eastern Ukrai …FORGING A COALITION „We can say today that a third of voters support the president’s course for carrying out reforms for entering the European Union,” said Yuriy Lutsenko, the leader of the Poroshenko Bloc.With the party of pro-Europe party Selfhelp in third place on 13.2 percent, Poroshenko should be able to forge a coalition to move Ukraine toward the European mainstream.Other parties which seemed likely to enter parliament on the basis of the exit poll included the populist Radical Party and the nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) party.The Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko performed worse than many had expected, with the 5.6 percent it secured only just above the barrier required to be able to enter parliament.Members of Ukrainian government forces, who are taking part in a military operation in eastern Ukrai …The outcome suggested many war veterans and „Euromaidan” activists enlisted as candidates will enter parliament, giving it a strong patriotic and nationalist tone.Boiko, whose party has criticized Poroshenko’s policies in the east and campaigned in Yanukovich’s power bases there, said he would work for the „removal of the current authorities”.After battlefield losses, Poroshenko has said he would resolve the conflict in the east only by political negotiations.Voting did not take place on Sunday in areas held by the rebels or in Crimea. In eastern regions controlled by the army, armed soldiers guarded polling stations under Ukraine’s flag.”There was shelling all yesterday as we were preparing the voter lists,” said Nadezhda Danilchenko, a member of the election committee at a polling station in Volnovakha, a town about 50 km (30 miles) south of Donetsk in east Ukraine.”Either they (the separatists) were practising their shooting or they’re trying to intimidate us.”Poroshenko went to a town in the Donetsk region held by the army to show support for the troops in the east, where a truce is force. There were no big attacks on election day.(Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk and by Thomas Grove in Volnovakha, Ukraine, Writing by Richard Balmforth, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Robin Pomeroy)
Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama agree on very little. But on the subject of Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, they’re on the same page. In a speech delivered Sunday at the Valdai Club, an annual gathering of Russian experts, Putin blamed the settlement construction for increased tension in the Middle East and beyond.”The humiliation of the Palestinian people and any other people is a source of danger and instability and must be removed with all means and ways acceptable to all parties,” Putin said.Israel maintained its neutrality on the Russia/Ukraine dispute, a position that did not go unnoticed in Washington.Considering the source, this position is more than a little rich. Throughout Putin’s lengthy tenure as the country’s de facto leader, Moscow has shown little reluctance in claiming territory it views as sovereign, most recently by annexing the former Ukrainian-held territory of Crimea in March. That incident drew international condemnation and led to economic sanctions, but Israel, curiously, said little. The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintained its neutrality on the Russia/Ukraine dispute, a position that did not go unnoticed in Washington.”We were surprised Israel did not join the vast majority of countries that vowed to support Ukraine’s territorial integrity in the United Nations,” Jen Psaki, the U.S. State Department spokesperson, said at the time.Russia and Israel have grown closer in other ways. Putin is the first Russian leader to visit the Jewish state, and in 2012 appeared at a ceremony in Netanya, Israel, to honor Jewish soldiers serving in the Red Army during World War Two. Israel has a large Russian diaspora, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, one of Israel’s most prominent right-wing advocates, was born and raised in the former Soviet Union.Russia, however, has not abandoned the Palestinian cause. Moscow consistently supports Palestinian interests in the United Nations, and has retained ties to regimes implacably opposed to Israel. Russia supports Iran’s nuclear program, which Israel regards as an existential threat, and has sold arms to both Tehran and to Bashar Assad’s embattled regime in Syria. And earlier this year, Moscow invited Khaled Meshaal, a key Hamas official, to Russia to meet with Putin Administration officials. Israel, the United States, and Europe regard Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2005, as a terrorist organization.Unlike the United States and China, Russia has refrained from direct attempts to mediate the Israeli/Palestinian dispute. But Vladimir Putin’s position on the settlements shows that, warm ties aside, he remains unwilling to march in lockstep with Israel—even if it does mean agreeing with Washington.This article was originally published athttp://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/10/vladimir-putins-israelpalestine-dance/381943/
Top Asian News at 11:00 p.m. GMT 5 hours ago TouchVision POPE FRANCIS VISITS SOUTH KOREATouchVision POPE FRANCIS VISITS SOUTH KOREA SINGAPORE (AP) — The longer the Ebola outbreak rages in West Africa, the greater chance a traveler infected with the virus touches down in an Asian city. How quickly any case is detected — and the measures taken once it is — will determine whether the virus takes hold in a region where billions live in poverty and public health systems are often very weak. Governments are ramping up response plans, stepping up surveillance at airports and considering quarantine measures. Still, health experts in the region’s less developed countries fear any outbreak would be deadly and hard to contain.HONG KONG (AP) — The leaders of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests on Sunday canceled a vote on what the next step should be in their monthlong street occupation, saying they hadn’t properly consulted with the demonstrators before calling the referendum. The two-day vote, which had been scheduled for Sunday and Monday, was supposed to have gauged the protesters’ support for counterproposals to offers made by Hong Kong’s government following talks last week between student protest leaders and authorities.KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan court has sentenced a mullah to 20 years in prison after finding the religious teacher guilty of raping a 10-year-old girl. The sentence, passed by a Kabul judge on Saturday, has been welcomed by family as well as women’s support groups as a rare victory in their fight for justice for female victims of sex crimes. Rape is often treated as adultery in Afghanistan, and victims can face prison themselves.LONDON (AP) — Britain has ended combat operations in the Helmand province in Afghanistan, defense officials said Sunday. They said U.K. troops have witnessed the lowering of the Union flag for the last time at the Camp Bastion complex in Helmand.JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s new president unveiled his Cabinet on Sunday, a compromise lineup featuring technocrats in key finance roles who will need to push painful reforms to fix the country’s slowing economy, but also including politicians who supported his spectacular rise to power. Joko „Jokowi” Widodo, a 53-year-old former furniture salesman who was sworn in as president last week amid high hopes of progressive leadership in the world’s fourth-largest country, had promised to promote professionals to top posts rather than party officials, who in Indonesia have a reputation for corruption and laziness.PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan’s army says its jets have killed at least 18 militants as part of an ongoing offensive to eliminate militants’ hideouts and ammunition stockpiles in the Khyber tribal region. An army statement Sunday says the jets destroyed five such hideouts with „precise strikes” during the offensive late Saturday night.KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan officials say that insurgents have attacked several police checkpoints in the northeast of the country, killing four police officers, while four civilians have been killed in two roadside bombings in the south. General Abdul Qadir Sayad, deputy police chief in Badakhshan province said on Sunday that a large number of insurgents simultaneously attacked several checkpoints in Wardoj district late on Saturday, and that at least four police officers had died while another seven were injured.ISLAMABAD (AP) — It had all the elements of a classic coup: thousands descending on the capital, clashing with police outside parliament and commandeering state TV to demand the ouster of a civilian leader who had locked horns with the military in a country with a long history of turmoil and dictatorship. But when the tear gas cleared in Islamabad in August, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif remained in office with the support of the entire parliament, the troops were still in their barracks, and the protesters had dwindled to a few thousand, their „revolution” confined to a festive, shrinking tent camp.YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — A growing sense of desperation is fueling a mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims from western Myanmar, with the number who have fled by boat since communal violence broke out two years ago now topping 100,000, a leading expert said Saturday. Chris Lewa, director of the nonprofit advocacy group Arakan Project, said there has been a huge surge since Oct. 15, with an average of 900 people per day piling into cargo ships parked off Rakhine state.BEIJING (AP) — A coal mine shaft collapsed in northwestern China, killing 16 miners, an official said Saturday, highlighting the persistence of safety problems in the industry despite a leveling off of demand. Another 11 miners were injured in the disaster, which struck just before midnight Friday in Tiechanggou township outside the Xinjiang regional capital of Urumqi.KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — A Nepal bus packed with people, including Israeli tourists and locals heading home for a Hindu festival, veered off a mountain highway, killing 14 and injuring dozens, police said Saturday. Among those killed Friday were two Israelis, including a woman who was part of a group heading to the Langtang trekking area. Israeli media reported four other Israelis were among the dozens of injured, 20 of whom remained in hospitals.HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Police in Vietnam have arrested a prominent businessman and one of the country’s richest men on suspicion of lending fraud, as authorities step up their crackdown on financial crimes in a bid to clean up the debt-ridden banking sector. Ha Van Tham, former chairman of the board of the private Ocean Bank, was taken into police custody in Hanoi on Friday for „violating lending regulations,” the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement posted on its website late Friday. Police searched his house and workplace.SAN DIEGO (AP) — Le Minh Thai, a photojournalist who covered the Vietnam War for The Associated Press and Time Life, has died. He was 93. Thai died Oct. 10 at a nursing home in Encinitas, where he had been living for the past seven years, his daughter, Quynh Thai, told The Associated Press.WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A Malaysian military officer was back in a New Zealand court Saturday to face sexual assault charges five months after he left the country under the protection of diplomatic immunity. Muhammad Rizalman Ismail did not say anything during his brief appearance at the Wellington District Court. He was taken into police custody and scheduled to reappear before a judge Tuesday.KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai on Saturday made his first overseas trip since taking office, fulfilling an election promise to undertake a religious pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. His office said in a statement that Ghani Ahmadzai would perform Umrah, a pilgrimage to Mecca that can be undertaken at any time of year. He would also meet with Saudi King Abdullah and other officials to discuss issues of mutual interest, the statement said.
Israel president admits wrongs to Arabs at massacre memorial 10 hours agoIsraeli President Reuven Rivlin (R) greets an Arab-Israeli man during a memorial for the 47 Arab Israelis killed by Israeli border police in 1956, in the Arab-Israeli town of Kfar Qassem on October 26, 2014 (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)Kafr Qassem (Israel) (AFP) – President Reuven Rivlin acknowledged Sunday past and present wrongdoings to Israel’s Arabs, while calling for calm in the wake of growing unrest in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.Related Stories
Rivlin spoke at a memorial ceremony for victims of the 1956 massacre at Kafr Qassem, where Israeli forces killed 47 residents of the central Israeli Arab village for breaking a wartime curfew, becoming the first Israeli president to attend the event.”A terrible crime was committed here,” he said. „The brutal killings in Kafr Qassem are an anomalous and sorrowful chapter in the history of the relations between Arabs and Jews living here.”I came here today, specifically during these difficult days, to reach out my hand in the belief that your hands are outstretched to me and to the Israeli Jewish public in turn,” the president said.Violence pitting Palestinians against Israeli police has shaken annexed east Jerusalem on an almost daily basis since the murder of a Palestinian teenager by Jewish extremists in July.Clashes intensified during the 50-day Gaza war over the summer.Rivlin’s visit came as preparations were underway for the funeral of an east Jerusalem man who on Wednesday drove his car at high speed into a crowd of Israelis, killing a baby.Kafr Qassem is situated in central Israel, adjacent to the West Bank.In 1956, it was under military rule, and on October 29 — the first day of a war with Egypt — Israeli border policemen gunned down residents who were unaware a curfew that had been imposed, killing men returning from work in the fields as well as women and children.Arab Israelis number around 1.4 million, some 20 percent of Israel’s population.They are the descendents of 160,000 Palestinian Arabs who remained on their land when the Jewish state was established in 1948.“I am not naive,” Rivlin said. „We belong to two nations, whose dreams and aspirations, to a great extent, contradict each other.”Many Israeli Arabs, who are part of the Palestinian people, feel the hurt and suffering of their brothers on the other side of the Green Line. Many of them encounter racism and arrogance from Jews,” said the Israeli president.”The Arab population in Israel, and the Arab leaders in Israel, must take a clear stand against violence and terrorism,” Rivlin stressed.The Kafr Qassem massacre is taught in the Israeli education system as a case of an illegal military order that must be refused by soldiers.
Kurds thwart new IS bid to cut off Syria’s Kobane By Fulya Ozerkan with Serene Assir in Beirut8 hours ago Mursitpinar (Turkey) (AFP) – Kurdish forces thwarted a new attempt Sunday by Islamic State group fighters to cut off the Syrian town of Kobane from the border with Turkey before Iraqi Kurdish reinforcements can deploy.Related Stories
The pre-dawn assault marked the fourth straight day the jihadists had attacked the Syrian side of the border crossing as the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters prepare to head for Kobane, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.Kurdish forces, backed by US-led air strikes, have been holding out for weeks against an IS offensive around Kobane, which has become a high-profile symbol of efforts to stop the jihadist advance.The US military said in its latest update that American warplanes carried out five air strikes near Kobane on Saturday and Sunday, destroying seven IS vehicles and an IS-held building.Ground fighting for Kobane has killed more than 800 people since the IS offensive began on September 16, with the jihadists losing 481 fighters and the Kurds 313, said the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria for its information.Among the dead are 21 civilians, but the figures exclude IS losses to US-led air strikes, which the Pentagon has said run to „several hundred”.Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Syrian Kurds do not want Iraq’s Kurdish peshmerga fighter …The jihadist assault prompted nearly all of the enclave’s population to flee, with some 200,000 refugees streaming over the border into neighbouring Turkey.Last week, under heavy US pressure, Turkey unexpectedly announced it would allow the peshmerga fighters to cross its territory to join the fight for Kobane.The main Syrian Kurdish fighting force in the town has close links with the outlawed rebel Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a three-decade insurgency in southeastern Turkey and Ankara had previously resisted calls to allow in reinforcements.- Peshmerga ‘ready to go’ -The peshmerga forces are „ready to go”, but they are not expected to deploy to Kobane before Monday at the earliest, Kurdish news agency Rudaw reported.A Syrian Kurdish man brews tea in front of his tent on October 23, 2014, in the Rojava refugee camp …”Technical issues” concerning their transit through Turkey still had to be resolved, Rudaw said without elaborating.The Democratic Union Party (PYD) which dominates Kobane agreed to the offer of the peshmerga troops.But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan charged in comments published Sunday that the „terror” group did not really want the peshmerga forces to deploy to Kobane for fear of seeing its influence diminished.”The PYD does not want the peshmerga to come,” Erdogan said.”They don’t want the peshmerga to come to Kobane and dominate it.Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (L) is welcomed by Jordan’s Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur on …”The PYD thinks its game will be spoilt if the peshmerga come. Their setup will be ruined.”The PKK and its allies have long had difficult relations with the parties that control the Kurdish regional government and its peshmerga forces in northern Iraq.By contrast Ankara has developed a good working relationship with the Iraqi Kurdish authorities.- ‘Destroying Iraqi civilisation’ -The lion’s share of recent coalition strikes have been in neighbouring Iraq, as Washington has voiced mounting confidence Kobane’s fall to the jihadists can be prevented after US arms drops this month.Twelve air strikes were launched in Iraq on Saturday and Sunday — three of them near Fallujah west of Baghdad and nine around the strategic northern dam of Mosul, which IS briefly held in August and has repeatedly tried to seize back.On Sunday Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi paid a visit to Jordan, one of the five Arab nations taking part in the US-led air strikes.After meeting with his Jordanian counterpart Abdullah Nsur he called for greater cooperation in the battle against IS, which he warned was „destroying Iraqi civilisation”.Jordan borders Iraq’s Anbar province, much of which has been overrun by the IS.The country has also been struggling to cope with an influx of refugees from the war in neighbouring Syria, where government air strikes on two besieged, rebel-held areas of Homs province killed at least 31 people, the Observatory said Sunday.
„There is nobody to vote for. We want nothing to do with these monsters in Kiev,” the 41-year-old tells AFP.Like most of her friends, she says she is boycotting the poll and proud of it.”I’m against Kiev. I don’t know what I want, but I don’t want to be with them.”Mariupol is a town of divided loyalties sitting on the edge of fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels.Seized by separatists in April, the steelmaking port returned to government control after Kiev’s troops marched in two months later.Now, with the volatile frontline separating the two forces just a few kilometres apart, the divisions in the town are still running deep.Soldiers of the Ukrainian volunteer Azov battalion exits polling booths before casting their ballots …And neither side — those who support the separatists and those who back Kiev — seems keen on a compromise.Local man Vladimir Zhdanov says he is voting for the party of pro-Western President Petro Poroshenko and wants to see the pro-Russian insurgents chased out of his country.”I want our territory to be returned to us,” he says. „I want for this war to be over.”- ‘Don’t shout, act’ -Whatever the results of the elections, few in this once sleepy town expect any settlement soon.Fighting on the east of the city this month fuelled rumours that the rebels were planning a major assault during the elections.A woman uses a magnifying glass to read her ballot while voting at her home in the village of Gornos …Police on Saturday said rebels in the town of Novoazovsk, 30 kilometres (18 miles) to the east, painted several trucks in the colours of Ukraine’s volunteer battalions and planned to disrupt voting in government-controlled villages.”Of course we were afraid there would be provocations,” said Yuriy Petrenko, a 52-year-old doctor with the volunteer Azov battalion, an ultra-nationalist outfit, who came to vote at a school nearest to its base.He said, however, that despite an uptick in fighting this month — including an attack that hit a funeral procession killing seven civilians — the last few days have proven quiet.The city’s population, Petrenko added, is swinging back in favour of Kiev after having initially opposed government troops when they regained control of the city in June.”I’ve been here since the beginning and at first locals told us they would come to our base at night and stab us,” said the doctor, who hails from Poltava, a city in central Ukraine.”Now the locals are helping us,” he said as people filed past him to pick up their ballots.Standing guard near the battalion’s base, another fighter said that while some locals still help the rebels, they are a small minority in the city.The 25-year-old, wearing full military gear and giving his nickname as „Beavis,” said it was difficult to track down locals who tip off the separatists about Ukrainian military positions.”But there are just a few hundred people like that” in the city of some half a million, he said.The young fighter said he joined the volunteer Azov battalion as soon as the fighting approached Mariupol’s eastern neighbourhoods.”Most people here are passive. They are against Kiev because they think in stereotypes,” he said. But „those who support Ukraine, they don’t shout about it, they act.”For some casting their ballots in this divided city, the main goal is simply to return to some sense of normalcy.Retiree Valentina Pavlova voted for independence when the rebels held a hastily organised referendum here in May. Now she says she is sorry she did, although she is still voting for one of the more pro-Russian parties taking part in Sunday’s parliamentary election.”I regret going now (to the rebel referendum), because I look at what is happening and it’s complete chaos,” the pensioner said.
Turkey arrests five over deadly attack on soldiers blamed on PKK 9 hours agoIstanbul (AFP) – Turkey on Sunday arrested five people over the killing of three off-duty soldiers in the Kurdish-majority southeast of the country in an attack blamed on separatist militants, reports said.Related Stories
The attack, the most serious act so far in an upsurge of militant violence, threatens to derail a fragile peace process between the Turkish government and the Kurds.The three soldiers were gunned down in the middle of the afternoon Saturday while walking in the town centre of Yuksekova in the southeastern Hakkari province.The army blamed the attack on the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency for self-rule, but has largely observed a ceasefire since March 2013.As part of the investigation, police conducted several morning raids on addresses in Yuksekova, the official Anatolia news agency reported.Five suspects named as Mesut K., Islam B., M.Ali A., Orhan B. and Bayram A. were arrested and being interrogated, it said.Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pictured during a press conference in Rigam, Latvia, on Oct …There has been an increase in militant violence in the southeast following deadly protests earlier this month against the government’s strategy to counter jihadists across the border in Syria.On Sunday, the corpse of a village guard who had been missing since September was found tied to a telegraph post in the Tatvan district of the southeastern Bitlis region.He had been shot dead in an execution-style killing, the army said in a statement, blaming the PKK.Meanwhile, the army was, for a second day, blocking access to the eastern city of Tunceli amid reports a cemetery for slain PKK fighters was to be opened there.President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in comments published on Sunday he believed that neither the PKK nor Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish political party, the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), wanted peace.”Neither the PKK nor the party that is its extension wants peace. Two plus two equals four,” Erdogan told Turkish reporters aboard his plane.He said that Turkey’s Kurdish population was happy with the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP’s) development projects for the region, but said it was the „terror organisation” that was blocking peace efforts.Erdogan indicated there could be a split between elements in the PKK and its overall leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is serving a life sentence on the Imrali prison island in the Sea of Marmara.Ocalan said in a dovish statement last week that he was hopeful the peace process would be concluded successfully, remarks that contrasted with the recent surge in militant activity by the group.”As far as I can see Imrali is also worried and made a declaration that the peace process should not be damaged,” said Erdogan, avoiding referring to Ocalan by name.Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan, the government’s pointman on the Kurdish issue, said that the PKK was having a „panic attack” in reaction to the progress made in the peace process.”They (the PKK) fear a solution,” he said, quoted by Anatolia. „But Turkey is not a country that will give way in the face of violence and terror.”
Pro-Western parties have emerged as the big winners in Ukraine’s parliamentary elections. According to exit polling, the Poroshenko Bloc—controlled by President Petro Poroshenko—earned 23 percent of the vote, while a party aligned with Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk secured 21.3 percent. Both parties favor policies designed to bring Ukraine closer to Europe, and in a statement issued on Saturday Poroshenko said that a parliamentary majority would help him govern more effectively.“I have enough political will to implement the developed strategy of reforms. But I also need the majority in the Parliament. Reformist majority, not [a] corrupt one. Pro-Ukrainian and pro-European, not pro-Soviet,” he said.The Kyiv Post reported that a total of seven political parties will be represented in the Rada, including the Batkivshchyna Party led by Yulia Tymoshenko, who has twice served as Ukraine’s prime minister. One old standby, however, was conspicuously absent. For the first since since Ukraine became independent in 1991, the Communist Party failed to pass the five-percent threshold needed to guarantee a spot in parliament.”Reformist majority, not corrupt one. Pro-Ukrainian and pro-European, not pro-Soviet.”The results are good news for Poroshenko, a billionaire chocolate magnate who assumed Ukraine’s presidency after Viktor Yanukovych departed following a populist uprising in February. But the victory comes with an asterisk: Because of instability and violence, nearly three million voters in Donetsk and Luhansk, two regions currently under the control of pro-Russian separatists, were unable to participate. More than 3,700 people have died during the separatist conflict, including 300 after a ceasefire was signed in September.Things are not going well in Ukraine, to say the least. The country’s economy is in bad shape, with GDP forecasted to drop between seven and 10 percent this year. Russia cut off natural gas sales to Ukraine in June and claims Kiev owes Moscow a debt of $4.5 billion. (The two sidesreached a tentative agreement earlier this month to resume gas sales, but differences remain.) Despite the ceasefire, Poroshenko has been unable to resolve the crisis in Donetsk and Luhansk, and his European allies have expressed little faith that Ukraine can free itself from Russia’s grip.But the elections signaled that Ukrainians are looking forward, not back. According to Stephen Sestanovich, a professor at Columbia University and expert on contemporary Russia, the feeble performance of extremist parties is encouraging.”With things this bad, one expects half-unhinged candidates and parties to get the upper hand. So far, amazingly, they haven’t,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal.This article was originally published athttp://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/10/ukrainians-vote-to-face-west/381945/
No direct combat for Iraqi Kurds in Kobani, ISIS loses ground in Iraq By Isabel Coles and Ahmed Rasheed9 hours agoKurdish Peshmerga fighters pose near a wall on which the black flag commonly used by Islamic State militants …By Isabel Coles and Ahmed Rasheed Related Stories
ARBIL/BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi Kurdish forces will not engage in ground fighting in the Syrian town of Kobani but provide artillery support for fellow Kurds fending off Islamic State militants there, a Kurdish spokesman said on Sunday.Islamic State fighters have been trying to capture Kobani for over a month, pressing on despite U.S.-led air strikes on their positions and the deaths of hundreds of their fighters.The Kurds prepared to help their comrades in Syria as Iraqi government forces and Shi’ite militias advanced against the al Qaeda offshoot that wants to redraw the map of the Middle East.The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors violence in Syria’s three-and-a-half-year-old conflict, said on Sunday it had confirmed that 815 people had been killed in the fighting for Kobani over the last 40 days – more than half of them Islamic State fighters.The Kurdish region’s parliament voted last week to deploy some of its peshmerga forces, which have been fighting their own battle against Islamic State in northern Iraq, to Syria.Kurdish refugees from Kobani watch as thick smoke covers the Syrian town of Kobani during fighting b …”Primarily, it will be a back-up support with artillery and other weapons,” Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) spokesman Safeen Dizayee told Reuters. „It will not be combat troops as such, at this point anyway.”Islamic State militants shelled Kobani’s border post with Turkey overnight but were repulsed by Kurdish fighters, Kurdish officials and a monitoring group said on Sunday.”Of course they will try again tonight,” said Idris Nassan, a local Kurdish official. „Last night they brought new reinforcements, new supplies, and they are pushing hard.”IRAQI FORCES GAIN Iraqi security forces backed by Shi’ite militias gained some momentum at the weekend in their bid to loosen the grip of Islamic State, which controls large swathes of territory in the north and west of the major OPEC oil producer.Kurdish fighters stand on a street in the Syrian town of Kobani October 26, 2014. REUTERS/Kai Pfaff …Iraqi government forces backed by Shi’ite militias retook four villages on Sunday near the Himreen mountains overlooking Islamic State supply lines some 100 km (60 miles) south of the oil city of Kirkuk, security officials said.They also drove Islamic State militants out of Jurf al-Sakhar, just south of Baghdad, while Kurdish fighters regained control over the town of Zumar in the north.Sunni insurgents have been moving fighters, weapons and supplies from western Iraq through secret desert tunnels to Jurf al-Sakhar, Iraqi officials have said. Now it appears government forces may be able to disrupt that network.Roadside bombs and booby-trapped houses hampered their progress near the Himreen mountains, security officials. „We have decided to make slow advances. We hold the ground, set up watch towers, clear the explosives and build sand barriers to prevent the armed men from returning,” army major Ahmed Nu’aman told Reuters by telephone.BATTLE FOR KOBANISmoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani, seen from near the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Tu …Last week, Ankara said it would allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters passage through Turkish territory to reach besieged Kobani.Syrian Kurdish forces defending Kobani say heavier weaponry is vital to fighting the better armed Islamic State fighters.They have asked for armour-piercing missiles able to destroy the tanks and other armoured vehicles used by Islamic State.The Syrian Kurds said weapons airdropped to them by the U.S. air force last week were not enough to defeat Islamic State. U.S. officials had described those weapons, which were supplied by the Iraqi Kurdish authorities, as „small arms”.In a separate interview with Reuters on Sunday, the chief of staff to the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, said the peshmerga were ready to depart as soon as a timetable had been finalised with Ankara and Kurds in Syria.Smoke rises over Syrian town of Kobani, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian …Fuad Hussein said he expected the 155 peshmerga fighters to move „one of these days”.Asked about the weapons the peshmerga would take, Hussein described them as „semi-heavy” and said they would enable the lightly armed Kurdish fighters in Kobani to counter Islamic State’s tanks and armoured vehicles.The battle for Kobani has taken on major political significance for Turkey, whose own Kurds have been infuriated by Ankara’s reluctance to intervene, threatening to derail a peace process between the government and separatist guerrillas.On the prospect of further deployments to Kobani, Dizayee said: „It all depends on how things go on the ground. I think this should and can be discussed at a later point.”Iraqi forces are slowly trying to undermine Islamic State in operations like the one near the Himreen mountains.A Kurdish refugee child from the Syrian town of Kobani looks on near makeshift tents in a camp in th …It is designed to isolate Islamic State fighters controlling the towns of Jalawla and Saadiya and cut off the areas they seized northeast of the city of Baquba, which is held by Iraqi security forces and Shi’ite militias.Government forces and Kurdish peshmerga fighters have been trying for months to take over Jalawla and Saadiya, located northeast of Baghdad.ANBAR OPERATION Islamic State swept through northern Iraq in the summer, facing little resistance from U.S.-trained government troops.The group made up of Iraqis, other Arabs and foreign fighters then threatened to march on Baghdad, rattling the Shi’ite-led government.Kurdish refugee children from the Syrian town of Kobani stand near a makeshift tent in a camp in the …Much may depend on whether the performance of Iraq’s army and security forces improves.Their advances over the weekend and other operations indicate they rely heavily on support from Shi’ite militias whose alleged human rights abuses against minority Sunnis have fueled sectarian bloodshed and helped destabilise Iraq.The next major security operation is expected to target the town of Amriyat al-Falluja, located in the Sunni heartland of Anbar province, just 40 km (25 miles) from Baghdad.The Sunni insurgents have been surrounding it for weeks. Security officials said government forces are preparing to try and break the siege. Islamic State also appears to be gearing up for another battle.Militants in the nearby town of Falluja, an Islamic State bastion, used loudspeakers attached to captured police vehicles to tell supporters to expect good news from Amriyat al-Falluja.”Be cheerful. We have 100 suicide bombers preparing for the battle of Amriyat al-Falluja and we have more if the situation warrants,” was the message conveyed, a witness told Reuters from Falluja.(Additional reporting by Dasha Afanasieva in Mursitpinar; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Tom Heneghan)
A Reuters witness saw the fighters in green camouflage uniforms scream and swear at members of the Islamist group as they kicked and struck them with rifle butts in Jurf al-Sakhar.As the angry crowd of militiamen around the unarmed militants swelled, shots rang out. The three men lay soaked in blood in the dirt with gunshot wounds to the head.”Those dogs are Chechens. They don’t deserve to stay alive. We took confessions from them and we don’t need them anymore,” said one of the Shi’ite militiamen.The victory could allow Iraqi forces to prevent the Sunni insurgents from edging closer to the capital, sever connections to their strongholds in western Anbar province and stop them infiltrating the mainly Shi’ite Muslim south.Asked why the three men were executed, an army officer in Jurf al-Sakhar said: „We don’t need them anymore. Why should we keep them alive?”Shi’ite fighters participate in an intensive security deployment against Islamic State militants …Responding to the same question, a senior member of a local Shi’ite militia said: „When we liberated Jurf al-Sakhar we found the skeletons of innocent people they killed and never buried. They should face the same fate.”Islamic State, made up of Arab and foreign fighters, swept through the north of Iraq in June and controls large parts of the west as well.Its fighters hold swathes of territory in neighboring Syria and the group seeks to create an Islamic caliphate in the heart of the Middle East.The group has threatened to march on Baghdad, home to special forces and thousands of Shi’ite militias expected to put up fierce resistance if the capital comes under threat.Jurf al-Sakhar looked like a ghost town. Many residents had fled the fighting. Islamic State fighters had for months used skilled snipers and roadside bombs to prevent Iraqi security forces and Shi’ite militias from advancing.Shi’ite fighters and Iraqi army members celebrate after taking control of Jurf al-Sakhar from Is …During that period Islamic State used secret tunnels built by Saddam Hussein to evade United Nations weapons inspectors to move and store weapons and supplies.Iraqi forces brought in helicopter gunships and used rockets to build up pressure on the militants, who finally fled on Saturday.DEAD SNIPER DANGLES FROM TREETOPThere were rows of abandoned houses in Jurf al-Sakhar, some still burning. Black smoke hung over the town, surrounded by farmland, irrigation canals and swamps which had made it difficult for Iraqi forces to make headway.An Islamic State sniper who had attached himself with a rope to the top a date tree was slumped over and swinging back and forth after being hit by machinegun fire from a helicopter.Shi’ite fighters participate in an intensive security deployment against Islamic State militants …”This terrorist stopped us from making advances for the whole day and killed a lot of us,” said another militia fighter who also asked not to be named, pointing to the insurgent’s rifle on the ground.”We could not stop him, only a helicopter could.”The bodies of more than 50 Islamic State fighters were scattered across Jurf al-Sakhar, on streets, in trenches, near houses and on the beds of pickup trucks, many of them charred.The dead included 15 militants whose hands were tied behind their backs, lying in farmland.The stench of death was everywhere as flies covered bodies.Shi’ite fighters and Iraqi army members participate in an intensive security deployment against …Asked why government forces had not buried the bodies of men who were killed a day before, an Iraqi army colonel said: „Those terrorists do not deserve to be buried. Let the dogs eat their flesh. Many of our men were killed by them.”But then came a reminder of the determination of Islamic State militants to expand their reach to Baghdad in pursuit of a powerful caliphate.As Iraqi government soldiers and militias savored their victory and were taking photographs of the bodies, mortars fired by Islamic State fighters who had fled to orchards to the west rained down on the town.The blast hit the militiamen, killing dozens and scattering body parts. Soldiers who moments before were celebrating now screamed out in fear.”Run to the ditch. Mortars. Mortars,” yelled a militiaman. An army officer shouted at local militia leaders, berating them for advancing too fast, before helicopters had wiped out any pockets of resistance.”OK, let’s retreat,” one of the militiamen shouted.(Writing by Ahmed Rasheed and Michael Georgy; Editing by Rosalind Russell)