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Calling urgently on Syrian
2014.04.25 03:56:46

Calling urgently on Syrian authorities and the opposition to allow aid access, end siege warfare and halt the indiscriminate bombing of civilians, the top United Nations humanitarian officials today also issued a strong challenge to "those with the responsibility, power and influence" to find the courage to re-energize a thus-far failed diplomatic push to end the brutal three-year conflict.



Tags: Syria

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Geneva deal to be implemented 'in near-future'
2014.04.25 03:55:32

Russia expects that an international agreement to defuse the Ukraine crisis will be implemented in practical steps, the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov was quoted as saying on Thursday.

Russia, Ukraine, the US and the EU signed the deal in Geneva last week but each side has since accused the other of failing to carry it out.

"Russia expects that the Geneva accords will be implemented in practical actions in the near-future," Russian news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying. [Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Syrian government forces attack
2014.04.25 03:10:12

Syrian government forces have attacked rebel-held areas with poisonous chlorine gas in recent weeks and months, leaving men, women and children coughing, choking and gasping for breath, according to Associated Press news agency interviews with more than a dozen activists, medics and residents on the opposition side.

Syria flatly denied the allegations, and they have yet to be confirmed by any foreign country or international organization. But if true, they highlight the limitations of the global effort to rid President Bashar al-Assad's government of its chemical weapons.

Witnesses near Damascus and in a central rebel-held village told the AP of dozens of cases of choking, fainting and other afflictions from inhaling fumes that some said were yellowish and smelled like chlorine cleanser.

Some of those interviewed said they believe the gas was responsible for at least two deaths.

They said the fumes came from hand grenades and helicopter-dropped barrel bombs, which are crude containers packed with explosives and shrapnel.

The UN Security Council called for an investigation Wednesday. Council members expressed "grave concern" over the allegations, said Nigeria's UN Ambassador U. Joy Ogwu, council president.

It's an accusation that carries high stakes, and the Syrian opposition has an interest in pushing such claims in hopes of spurring the world to take stern action against Assad, who has been locked in a civil war for three years and faces a Sunday deadline for handing over all his chemical weapons for destruction.



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Russia is not abiding by agreements
2014.04.25 03:08:54

The US president, Barack Obama, has said that Russia is not abiding by agreements over Ukraine agreed in a meeting in Geneva.

"So far at least, we have seen them not abide by the spirit or the letter of the agreement in Geneva," he said adding that if Russia continued to flout the deal there would be "consequences and we will ramp up further sanctions".

Obama's comments came during a visit to Japan. [AFP]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | United States

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Reports of alleged chlorine gas use
2014.04.25 02:59:36

The UN Security Council says it is concerned with reports of alleged chlorine gas use in Syrian towns. The use of gas has reportedly caused deaths and injuries. The UN is calling for formal investigations.

Nigeria's UN Ambassador U. Joy Ogwu, the council president has said that the chlorine gas attacks were raised during a meeting after a video briefing by Sigrid Kaag, who heads the mission charged with destroying Syria's chemical weapons.

It has been suggested that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons could play a role in investigating the latest allegations.

Syria's UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari has said his government "denies categorically the use of chlorine gas by the Syrian army."

-AP



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State Department hits back
2014.04.25 02:57:24

The US State Department has hit back at the Russian Foreign Minister's claims that Washington was "running the show" in Ukraine. Spokesperson Jen Psaki called Sergey Lavrov's comments "ludicrous" [AFP]

US vice president Joe Biden earlier this week said the US had given Ukraine's military $20m in "non-lethal" equipment.



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | United States

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Member of the People's Assembly
2014.04.24 03:08:02

Syrian state media has reported a member of the People's Assembly has registered as a challenger to Bashar al-Assad in the upcoming presidential election.

The Syrian opposition in exile has criticized the planned election of June 3 as a "farce", while the UN and the Arab League have said it poses a major obstacle to efforts for a negotiated peace.

To read the full story, click here.



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Town of Mileha
2014.04.24 03:06:07

This video allegedly shows government forces bombing the town of Mileha, east Damascus.

MWC cannot independently confirm the content of this video.



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US troops have arrived in Poland
2014.04.24 03:04:36

The first of 600 US troops have arrived in Poland. Washington insists that they are not there to intervene, but the Kiev government hopes they will take action if Russia further provokes Ukraine.

"We hope that if there is aggression from the Russian Federation that this assistance will be more substantial. At least we have the support of the United States, they will not leave us alone with the aggressor," said Vitaly Yarema, Ukraine's first deputy prime minister. [RTV]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | United States | Poland

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Fighting in East Ghoutal
2014.04.24 03:03:33

This video allegedly shows fighting in East Ghouta, where regime forces launched an assault a few days ago.

MWC cannot independently verify the content of this video.



Tags: Syria

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Russia insist that Kiev pull back troops
2014.04.24 03:01:07

Russia has insisted that Kiev pull back its troops from eastern Ukraine as it accused Washington of distorting an agreement to ease the most serious confrontation between Moscow and the West since the end of the Cold War.

To read more, click here.



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Foreign diplomats visit Moldova and Georgia
2014.04.24 02:52:35

France and Germany's foreign ministers are making a joint visit to Moldova and Georgia, former Soviet republics, as unrest continues in Ukraine.

Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier and France's Laurent Fabius on Wednesday traveled to the Moldovan capital, Chisinau.

The trip, which will also include a visit to Tunisia, was planned at the beginning of the year as part of an effort to build stronger foreign-policy ties between Berlin and Paris.

Germany and France "take very seriously the deep anxiety" with which their eastern partners view the situation in Ukraine, Steinmeier said.

The EU is pushing ahead with association agreements with Moldova and Georgia.

[AP]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | Moldova | Georgia | France | Germany

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Challenger to Bashar al-Assad
2014.04.24 02:50:56

Syrian state media has reported a member of the People's Assembly has registered as a challenger to Bashar al-Assad in the upcoming presidential election.

"The speaker of the Syrian People's Assembly Mohammad Jihad al-Laham announced on Wednesday that the Assembly received from the Supreme Constitutional Court a candidacy application from MP Maher Abdul-Hafiz Hajjar to run for president," SANA reported.

Sources in Syria say that  Hajjar, who is Aleppo-born, is member of the internal opposition and a member of Syrian People's Assembly representing Aleppo governorate.



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Rundown of what has happened
2014.04.24 02:49:10

Despite all the talk today, the resumption of hostilities has not actually resumed. Here's a rundown of what has happened:

* The Ukraine government says its Easter truce is over. It says it has the backing of the US to launch "appropriate measures" against Pro-Russian separatists in the east.

* A video has emerged of a pro-Kiev councilor being confronted by a pro-Russian mob, hours before he was allegedly kidnapped, tortured and murdered before being dumped.

* Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said that Russia would respond if its interests were threatened. He referenced the action Russia took when Georgia moved to reoccupy its pro-Russian breakaway region of South Ossetia in 2008. Russian tanks were within a few dozen miles of Tblisi within five days).



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel
2014.04.24 02:33:08

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has informed his Egyptian counterpart of President Obama's decision to deliver 10 Apache helicopters in support of Egypt’s counter-terrorism operations in the Sinai.

A statement from the Department of Defense says the US believes these new helicopters will help the Egyptian government "counter extremists who threaten U.S., Egyptian, and Israeli security.

This is one element of the president’s broader efforts to work with partners across the region to build their capacity to counter terrorist threats, and is the United States’ national security interest."



Tags: Egypt | United States | Chuck Hagel

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Upcoming presidential election
2014.04.24 02:31:51

Syrian state media has reported a member of the People's Assembly has registered as a challenger to Bashar al-Assad in the upcoming presidential election.

"The speaker of the Syrian People's Assembly Mohammad Jihad al-Laham announced on Wednesday that the Assembly received from the Supreme Constitutional Court a candidacy application from MP Maher Abdul-Hafiz Hajjar to run for president," SANA reported.

Sources in Syria say that Hajjar, who is Aleppo-born, is member of the internal opposition and a member of Syrian People's Assembly representing Aleppo governorate.



Tags: Syria

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The 'Polite People' inspire Red Army tribute
2014.04.24 02:30:36

The Russian army choir has released a song glorifying the troops in unmarked uniforms who took control of Crimea ahead of its annexation by Moscow - swiftly nicknamed "the polite people" for their silent demeanor.

The deep-voiced Alexandrov Ensemble, known internationally as the Red Army Choir, released "Polite People" on its official YouTube site accompanied by footage of the choir performing in Crimea this month.

The heavily armed soldiers who appeared in Crimea in late February and surrounded government buildings and army bases gained the nickname "the polite people" because they refused to identify themselves but posed for publicity shots with children and women pushing prams.

Those who opposed Russia's actions in the strategic Black Sea peninsula on the other hand describe them as "little green men".

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, even used the term, saying his allies who came under Western sanctions over actions in Ukraine were "polite people."

The choir's song features lyrics praising the troops who "simply stand politely nearby, they simply carry guns," set to the strumming of balalaikas.

The song reassures listeners with a rousing chorus: "The polite people will preserve the glory and honor of the fatherland."

Putin insisted at the time that the unmarked troops in Crimea were members of local self-defense brigades and suggested they bought their uniforms at army surplus stores.

"Their helmets are polite, their faces are polite, even their steel vehicles are polite," the lyrics run, against a picture of a soldier in helmet and black mask, carrying a machine gun.

The choir's website says the song was first performed in Crimea on a tour from April 10-14.

[AFP]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki
2014.04.24 02:15:38

The email from US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki has, according to a congressional aide, cleared the way for the release of US Apache helicopters to Egypt and some of its annual $1.3bn military assistance package to the country so it can deal with security and counter-terrorism.

The unnamed congressional aide is cited in a report from the news agency Associated Press.



Tags: Egypt | United States

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Humanitarian aid to Syria
2014.04.24 02:13:57

The directors of five United Nations agencies that provide humanitarian aid to Syria have said their appeal for $6.5 bn in emergency funding for 2014 has been mostly ignored.

With only $1.2 bn pledged, the agency heads are renewing their December appeal and emphasizing that the humanitarian situation is deteriorating by the day as the 3-year-old civil war escalates in many areas.

The December appeal "has gone largely unanswered" for a crisis affecting 9.3 million people, said a joint statement Wednesday by U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, UNICEF director Anthony Lake, UN refugee commissioner

António Guterres, World Food Program director Ertharin Cousin and World Health Organization director Dr. Margaret Chan.

They say "the worst days seem yet to come" for civilians remaining in Aleppo, Homs, and other areas with heavy fighting.

[AP]



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Sergey Lavrov- Russian foreign minister
2014.04.24 02:12:52

Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister has said some pretty powerful stuff on Ukraine in an interview with Russia Today. The video is to be broadcast tonight but excerpts of the transcript have been released early. He says:

Russia sees the US hand in a new Ukraine offensive against pro-Russian groups in eastern Ukraine.

There is no reason not to believe that the Americans are running the show.

Russia will respond if its interests are attacked.

If our legitimate interests, the interests of Russians, have been attacked directly, like they were in South Ossetia for example, I do not see any other way but to respond in accordance with international law.

South Ossetia is a reference to the Georgian war of 2008, when Russian troops invaded Georgia after Tblisi attempted to end separatist rebellions in two of its regions: Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

This last one is fairly significant. Raising the specter of the Georgian war in reference to Ukraine is particularly pointed.

Russian citizens being attacked is an attack against the Russian Federation.

Is Lavrov saying there are Russian citizens among the separatists in east Ukraine? Or that he considers those in the groups to be defacto Russian citizens? That statement's meaning is not entirely clear, even in the context of his other quotes. But it certainly sounds high-level dangerous.



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | Sergey Lavrov

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