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Pro-Russian Separatists Take Armor Column From Ukrainian Army Without Firing A Shot

April 16, 2014

By Gabriela Baczynska and Thomas Grove

KRAMATORSK/SLAVIANSK, Ukraine (Reuters) – Separatists flew the Russian flag on armored vehicles taken from the Ukrainian army on Wednesday, humiliating a Kiev government operation to recapture eastern towns controlled by pro-Moscow partisans.

Six armored personnel carriers were driven into the rebel-held town of Slaviansk to waves and shouts of “Russia! Russia!”. It was not immediately clear whether they had been captured by rebels or handed over to them by Ukrainian deserters.

Another 15 armored troop carriers full of paratroops were surrounded and halted by a pro-Russian crowd at a town near an airbase. They were allowed to retreat only after the soldiers had handed over the firing pins from their rifles to a rebel commander.

The military setback leaves Kiev looking weak on the eve of a peace conference on Thursday, when its foreign minister will meet his Russian, U.S. and European Union counterparts in Geneva.

Moscow has responded to the overthrow of Moscow-backed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich in February by declaring the interim Kiev government an illegitimate gang of fascists. It has also announced its right to intervene militarily across the former Soviet Union to protect Russian speakers, a new doctrine that has overturned decades of post-Cold War diplomacy.

The EU took a step towards imposing tougher economic sanctions on Russia by informing its member states of the likely impact of proposed measures on each of them. Countries have a week to respond before the European Commission starts drawing up plans for sanctions on energy, finance and trade.

To keep the sensitive material from leaking, each of the 28 member states was told only of the expected risks its own economy would face. The information was handed to each EU ambassador in a sealed brown envelope.

Russia seized and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula last month, and its armed supporters have now taken control over swathes of Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland.

So far, the United States and EU have imposed only targeted sanctions against a list of Russian and Ukrainian individuals and firms, which Moscow has openly mocked. Washington and Brussels say they are working on far tougher measures.

The Ukrainian government confirmed that six of its armored vehicles were now in the hands of separatists. Photos of their number markings showed they were among vehicles deployed earlier in the government’s attempted “anti-terrorist” operation.

Kiev had sent the convoy of paratroops to capture an airfield, the start of an operation to reclaim towns held by separatists who have declared an independent “People’s Republic” in the industrial Donbass region.

The Ukrainian government and its Western allies believe Russian agents are coordinating the uprising. Moscow denies it is involved and says Kiev is precipitating civil war by sending troops to put down the revolt.

The Kiev government is seeking to reassert control without bloodshed, which it fears would precipitate a Russian invasion.

The operation is the first test of Kiev’s under-funded army, which had until now played no role in six months of internal unrest. The government seems to have resorted to using troops after losing faith that police in the east would stay loyal.

OPERATION

The government troops began their operation on Tuesday, arriving by helicopter to take control of an airfield at Kramatorsk. They drove armored personnel carriers flying the Ukrainian flag into the town in the early morning.

But six of those vehicles later rumbled into Slaviansk, 15 km (9 miles) away, with Russian and separatist flags and armed men in motley combat fatigues on top. They stopped outside the separatist-occupied town hall.

Some Ukrainian troops were also taken to Slaviansk with the vehicles, although it was not immediately clear whether they had deserted or were coerced into coming. People in the town said some were sent home in buses.

One soldier guarding one of the vehicles said he was a member of Ukraine’s 25th paratrooper division, the unit sent by Kiev to recapture Slaviansk and Kramatorsk.

“All the soldiers and the officers are here. We are all boys who won’t shoot our own people,” he said, adding that his men had had no food for four days until local residents fed them.

The Defence Ministry in Kiev said the vehicles had been captured. “A column was blocked by a crowd of local people in Kramatorsk with members of a Russian diversionary-terrorist group among them,” it said. “As a result, extremists seized the equipment.”

Above Slaviansk, a Ukrainian jet fighter carried out several minutes of aerobatics over the town’s main square.

Back in Kramatorsk, 15 vehicles from the Ukrainian military convoy sent to recapture the town were stuck near a railroad, blockaded by unarmed local residents. A Ukrainian officer said his men were not prepared to fire on fellow Ukrainians.

“I am a Ukrainian officer, that’s the first thing. The other is that I will not shoot at my own people no matter what,” said the officer who said he could not give his name as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

“I want things to be normal, people to go back home, not sit in some fields with weapons. I want children to see weapons only on TV … I want us to live together as we were. And I want to be back home to my wife and child.”

The crowd blockaded the troops until the commander of the unit, Colonel Oleksander Schvets, agreed to order his men to hand over the firing pins from their rifles to a separatist leader. The crowd then allowed the troops to drive back to their base in Dnipropetrovsk, a southern city.

The pro-Russian separatists began the uprising in the east by seizing government buildings in three cities on April 6, and have tightened their grip in recent days. Their armed paramilitaries now control buildings in about 10 towns and have seized hundreds of weapons. Two people were killed on Sunday in Slaviansk, including a Ukrainian state security agent shot dead.

Kiev calls the uprising a blatant repeat of the seizure of Crimea, where armed pro-Russian partisans also occupied buildings, declared independence and proclaimed themselves in charge of state bodies. The main difference so far is that Russian troops have not appeared overtly as they did in Crimea, where Moscow already had military bases.

NATO says there are 40,000 Russian soldiers amassed on the frontier, forces which could capture eastern Ukraine in days.

Hopes are faint for any progress at the talks in Geneva on Thursday. As in the case of Crimea last month, diplomacy appears to have fallen far behind the pace of events on the ground, with pro-Russian partisans establishing control of territory before Western countries can muster a response.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to speak on Thursday at an annual question and answer session with citizens, which could signal how far he intends to go in Ukraine.

A triumphant speech he gave in March justifying the annexation of Crimea has been seen as a decisive moment in Russia’s relations with the West, signaling Moscow no longer feels bound by customary rules governing the use of force.

BRINK OF CIVIL WAR

Putin told German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a telephone call late on Tuesday that Kiev had “embarked on an anti-constitutional course” by using the army. “The sharp escalation of the conflict puts the country, in effect, on the brink of civil war,” the Kremlin quoted him as saying.

Washington and NATO have made clear they will not fight to protect Ukraine. Instead, NATO announced urgent new steps to reinforce the security of alliance members that border on it.

“You will see deployments at sea, in the air, on land, to take place immediately. That means within days,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a news conference after meeting of ambassadors from the 28-member alliance.

After several days of delay, Ukraine’s operation began at the Kramatorsk airfield on Tuesday, where Ukrainian soldiers disembarked from two helicopters. Reporters heard gunfire that seemed to prevent an air force plane from landing. Kiev says there were no casualties.

“I think Donbass should be an independent country allied with Russia,” said a local resident who gave his name as Olexander, part of the crowd that turned out to block the troop column on Wednesday. “My homeland is the Soviet Union. We just need to chop off the rotten west of Ukraine and we’ll be fine.”

(Additional reporting by Christian Lowe in Moscow, Richard Balmforth in Kiev and Nguyen Phuong Linh in Hanoi; Writing by Peter Graff; editing by David Stamp)

Video:

http://news.yahoo.com/ukraine-tightens-grip-eastern-town-talks-073939979.html

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The start of World War III? — ‘I do not think it an exaggeration to say this could bring us to the brink of nuclear war’

April 16, 2014
  • ‘Vladimir Putin is striking at the heart of the West’
  • ‘We can chose to surrender any responsibility we have to protect Ukraine and the Baltic states’
  • ‘Or we can mount a last-ditch attempt to deter Russia from furthering its imperial ambitions’
  • ‘If we choose to resist Putin, we will risk a terrifying military escalation’
  • ‘I do not think it an exaggeration to say this could bring us to the brink of nuclear war’

By Edward Lucas

Deep in the flat and featureless landscape of eastern Ukraine, it is all too ­possible that the outline of World War III is taking shape.

Whipped up by the Kremlin ­propaganda machine and led by Russian ­military intelligence, armed men are erecting road blocks, storming police stations and ripping down the country’s flag.

They are demolishing not just their own country — bankrupt, ill-run and beleaguered — but also the post-war order that has kept most of Europe and us, here in Britain, safe and free for decades. Vladimir Putin is striking at the heart of the West.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2605578/Edward-Lucas-I-hope-Im-wrong-historians-look-say-start-World-War-III.html#ixzz2z4YMTsRN

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A Ukrainian military convoy traveling towards the eastern Ukrainian town of Slovyansk where Russian nationalists have seized the regional administration building

As the situation continues to deteriorate, Ukranian soldiers stand guard beside a military helicopter to prevent pro-Russian activists from seizing the aircraft

As the situation continues to deteriorate, Ukranian soldiers stand guard beside a military helicopter to prevent pro-Russian activists from seizing the aircraft

His target is our inability to work with allies in defence against common threats. The profoundly depressing fact is that the events of the past few months, as Russia has annexed the Crimea and ­suppressed opposition in Ukraine, have shown the West to be divided, humiliated and powerless in the face of these land grabs.

We are soon to face a bleak choice. We can chose to surrender any responsibility we have to protect Ukraine and the Baltic states — almost certainly Putin’s next target — from further Russian incursion. Or we can mount a last-ditch attempt to deter Russia from furthering its imperial ambitions.

 

As the tension escalates a Ukranian air force Su-27 fighter patrols an area 100 miles from the Russian border in estern Urkraine

As the tension escalates a Ukranian air force Su-27 fighter patrols an area 100 miles from the Russian border in eastern Urkraine

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More…

If we do choose to resist Putin, we will risk a terrifying military escalation, which I do not think it an exaggeration to say could bring us to the brink of nuclear war.

Putin knows that. And he believes we will choose surrender. For the real story of recent events in Ukraine is not about whether that country has a free-trade deal with Brussels or gets its gas from Moscow.

It is about brute power. It is about whether Putin’s Russia — a rogue state on Europe’s doorstep — can hold its neighbours to ­ransom, and whether we have the will to resist him. So far the answer to the first question is yes. And to the second a bleak no.

The Russian leader believes the collapse of the Soviet Union was a ‘geopolitical catastrophe’. He believes Russia was stripped of its empire by the West’s chicanery. And quite simply, he wants it back.

When the Soviet Union was ­dissolved in 1991, the former captive nations of Eastern Europe scrambled into Nato and the protection it offered as fast as they could.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2605578/Edward-Lucas-I-hope-Im-wrong-historians-look-say-start-World-War-III.html#ixzz2z4Yf3NnV

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A Ukrainian soldier aims his machine gun at pro-Russian protesters outside a Ukrainian airbase in Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine

A Ukrainian soldier aims his machine gun at pro-Russian protesters outside a Ukrainian airbase in Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2605578/Edward-Lucas-I-hope-Im-wrong-historians-look-say-start-World-War-III.html#ixzz2z4ZS89J5
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Iran Refuses To Discuss Its Ballistic Missile Program

April 16, 2014

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Tehran will not discuss its ballistic missiles as part of ongoing talks with world powers on a final agreement to curb the Iranian nuclear program, the country’s defense minister said Wednesday.

The remarks by Gen. Hossein Dehghan came as a rebuff of recent comments by U.S. State Department’s nuclear negotiator, Wendy Sherman, who said Iran’s ballistic capabilities should be addressed as part of a comprehensive agreement with Iran.

Iran’s ballistic program has also been a concern for the West since ballistic missile can be used to deliver nuclear warheads. Iran insists the missile program has no nuclear dimensions but is also adamant that its defense industry is a “red line” as a topic at the nuclear talks.

The U.S. has argued that a U.N. Security Council resolution bans Iran from “undertaking any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”

But Dehghan said Iran’s missile program has “nothing to do” with the nuclear negotiations and that it has no nuclear dimensions.

“Iran’s missiles are not up for discussion under any circumstances,” he told the semiofficial Fars news agency. “Iran’s missiles are only our concern … We don’t accept any intervention from anybody on this issue.”

Tehran has developed a series of missiles, some of which have a range 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) — enough to reach much of the Middle East. Military commanders have described them as a strategic asset and a strong deterrent, capable of hitting U.S. bases or Israel in the event of a strike on Iran.

The Pentagon released a rare public report in 2012 noting significant advances in Iran’s missiles technology and acknowledging that Tehran has improved their accuracy and firing capabilities.

Iran and six world powers — the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany — reached an interim deal in November that put limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment program in return for the easing of some sanctions. Core sanctions, however, remain in place — including measures targeting Iran’s oil exports, the pillar of its economy.

Talks are ongoing for a final deal that would remove all possibilities that the Islamic Republic could use its capabilities to build a nuclear weapon.

The talks are to continue on May 13 and the future scope of Iran’s uranium enrichment program has remained the toughest issue.

In a positive sign, diplomats said Tuesday that the United Nations will release a report this week certifying that Iran’s ability to make a nuclear bomb has been greatly reduced because it has diluted half of its stockpile of 20-percent enriched uranium, which is only a technical step away from the 90-percent grade used to arm nuclear weapons

The move was part of Iran’s commitments under the interim deal. The diplomats, who are familiar with Iran’s adherence to its commitments, demanded anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the confidential International Atomic Energy Agency report, due for release Wednesday or Thursday.

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Associated Press writer George Jahn in Vienna contributed to this report.

Related:

File:North Korean Unha-3 rocket at launch pad.jpg

North Korean Unha-3 rocket at launch pad on 8th April 2012. North Korea has said in the past this type was for Earth orbit satellite delivery.

Hundreds of al-Qaeda Leaders Make New Video to Threaten America — Al Qaeda is Not “On The Run” as Obama Administration Claimed

April 16, 2014
  • Video filmed hundreds of Al-Qaeda members meeting in Yemen in March
  • ‘Crown prince’ of AQAP seen speaking of ‘removing America’
  • Shot during celebration of mass breakout from Yemeni prison

By Daily Mail Reporter

A Yemeni faction of al-Qaeda may be planning on attacking western targets, including the United States, a recent video indicates.

The video allegedly shows a gathering of hundreds of al-Qaeda members, filmed during a celebration of a mass jailbreak of fighters in Sana’a, Yemen.

During the 15-minute clip, which was reportedly shot last month and just emerged, the leader of  Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) speaks of ‘removing America’.

Threat: The 15 minute video was filmed as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula celebrated a mass breakout from a prison in Sana'a, the capital of Yemen, and surfaced on several YouTube channels

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2606004/Is-brazen-meeting-al-Qaeda-leaders-sign-attack-U-S-again.html#ixzz2z4L09l7M

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The video was posted on several YouTube channels, including terrorism and political violence watchdog TRAC – Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium – and is dated March 2014.

It shows masked men waving al Qaeda’s black flag and celebrating the arrival of members who were freed from the main prison in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen.

 

More…

The jailbreak in February saw attackers mount a bomb, grenade and gun assault on the prison, freeing 29 inmates, including 19 jailed for terrorism-related crimes.

At the centre of the film is Nasser al-Wuhaishi, a man who has been named the ‘crown prince’ of AQAP.

‘We have to remember that we are always fighting the biggest enemy,’ says al-Wuhaishi. ‘We have to remove the cross, (and) the bearer of the cross, America.’

Although the authenticity of the video has not yet been independently verified, U.S. officials told CNN they believe it to be real.

Security experts have criticized American intelligence for allowing such a meeting to take place without their knowledge.

‘The U.S. intelligence community should be surprised that such a large group of al-Qaeda assembled together, including the leadership, and somehow they didn’t notice,’ Peter Bergen, CNN national security analyst said.

Abdulrazzaq al-Jamal, a journalist who has interviewed members of AQAP, said it was the largest known gathering of al Qaeda in Yemen.

‘It included about 400 people, and these are not all the members of the group. This gathering is a confirmation that al Qaeda is gaining strength and influence,’ he said.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2606004/Is-brazen-meeting-al-Qaeda-leaders-sign-attack-U-S-again.html#ixzz2z4Lj6TFq

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Did U.S. know? Security experts have criticized American intelligence for allowing a meeting of hundreds of AQAP members to take place without their knowledge

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2606004/Is-brazen-meeting-al-Qaeda-leaders-sign-attack-U-S-again.html#ixzz2z4LKtEW3
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Formed in 2009, AQAP has attacked military targets, tourists and diplomats in Yemen and taken over territory for long periods.

U.S. drone attacks have killed several suspected AQAP figures, including Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born Islamist cleric accused of links to a plot to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner in 2009 and U.S. cargo planes in 2010.

‘Al Qaeda will gain strength as there continues to be division and weakness in security performance,’ said Ali al-Sarari, political adviser to Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa.

‘The last appearance (the video) shows that Yemen is confronting a dangerous challenge. And if the security performance continues in this manner, then Yemen will face an even bigger failure than what it has faced in the past.’

Read more:

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2606004/Is-brazen-meeting-al-Qaeda-leaders-sign-attack-U-S-again.html#ixzz2z4LU6kD2

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Related:

VIDEO:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/15/world/al-qaeda-meeting-video/

READ: Al Qaeda controls more territory than ever in Middle East

Al Qaeda leader urges militants to find out who killed his Syria representative

Syria: Top training ground for al Qaeda, Senate is told

As China and the Philippines tangle, Indonesia keeping close eye on developments in South China Sea

April 16, 2014

The Indonesian military is evaluating its troop deployment in its territory closest to disputed islands in the South China Sea. The Commander-in-Chief of the Indonesian Armed Forces said he was closely monitoring developments there, as any conflict would spillover to Indonesian territory.

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China Coast Guard ships (L and R) and a Philippine supply boat (C) engage in a standoff as the Philippine boat attempts to reach the Second Thomas Shoal, a remote South China Sea reef claimed by both countries. (AFP/Jay Directo)

JAKARTA: Commander-in-Chief of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) General Moeldoko said that he has been keeping watch on territorial disputes in the resource-rich South China Sea.

While Indonesia does not have competing claims over islands in those waters, the four-star general has met his counterparts from several ASEAN countries which do, and he has relayed their concerns to his Chinese counterparts.

General Moeldoko said: “We in ASEAN do not want a situation that would lead to instability in this region. That is our firm position. And Indonesia will contribute to ensure stability. Second, Indonesia will be following the situation from time to time.”

 

The Indonesian military anticipated that any conflict in the area would naturally spillover to Indonesian territory.

He said: “It’s quite certain there will be a spillover if something happens in the South China Sea. And for that, we will certainly re-evaluate the deployment of our troops in the Natuna and Riau Islands. Those are the areas closest to the South China Sea.”

General Moeldoko also warned that the rebalancing of power in the Asia Pacific, which includes the United States, could also potentially lead to instability.

He said: “We do not want rebalancing turned into provocation for people in ASEAN because it will lead to an uncomfortable situation for us.”

The TNI commander’s commitment to ensuring stability in the region underscores and complements Jakarta’s ongoing diplomatic efforts at finding a peaceful resolution to the South China Sea disputes.

With Indonesia soon to see a change in government, its ASEAN neighbours are likely to find General Moeldoko’s resolve reassuring.

Pro-Russian Civilians Surround Ukrainian Tanks, Bringing Kiev’s “Anti-Terrorist” Assault to a Halt

April 16, 2014

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File:T-84 Oplat guided onto a tank transporter.jpg

By Roland Oliphant and Alastair Good

Ukraine’s anti-terrorist operation ground to a halt on Wednesday when pro-Russian civilians surrounded Ukrainian armoured columns as they moved towards the separatist-controlled city of Slavyansk in Donestsk region.

One convoy of fifteen armoured vehicles carrying Ukrainian paratroopers was halted by a civilian crowd as they passed through the settlement of Chalkino.

Witnesses said troops initially fired into the air and pushed aside a car that protesters parked across the road to blockade the convoy.

But faced with the possibility of causing civilian casualties, the troops eventually parked their vehicles.

Attack helicopters circled and a Ukrainian airforce fighter jet flew low over the scene of the standoff, but as the day wore on the convoy remained stationary, unable to move off due to the mass of protesters.

“They call us terrorists, and they have the guns and tanks,” said Lena, a local woman holding a banner demanding a referendum on the region’s status. “I came here to defend our people.”

“We’re just following orders,” said one paratrooper who said he was from the city of Dnipropetrovsk. “Nobody wants a war. We’ll get on ok with these people as long as they don’t try to take the vehicles or our weapons. That’s our stuff.”

NATO Will Increase Troops Levels in Eastern Europe

April 16, 2014

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Meetings of the Foreign Ministers at NATO Headquarters in Brussels- Press Conference NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Alliance announces more aircraft and ships in Baltic and eastern Mediterranean after pro-Russian militia seize armoured vehicles

and in Slavyansk
The Guardian

Nato has announced it has decided on a series of immediate steps to bolster its forces in eastern European as pro-Russian militia rolled into towns across eastern Ukraine in armoured vehicles.

“You will see deployments at sea, in the air, on land to take place immediately – that means within days,” the Nato secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told a news conference after the decision was taken by Nato ambassadors.

Nato fighter aircraft will fly more sorties over the Baltic region, allied ships will deploy to the Baltic Sea, the eastern Mediterranean and elsewhere, and allied military staff will be sent out to improve Nato’s preparedness, training and exercises, Rasmussen said.

Hours earlier, pro-Russian separatists seized five armoured personnel carriers and a tank from the Ukrainian army, which they then drove in a victory lap through the centre of Kramatorsk in Ukraine’s east and on to the nearby town of Slavyansk. The Ukrainian defence ministry confirmed that vehicles had been taken by pro-Russian forces.

About 100 heavily armed men, some in balaclavas and wearing military fatigues, rode on top of the seized armoured vehicles, the first of which was flying a Russian tricolour. Several hundred locals gathered around the convoy cheering, tooting their car horns and waving in support as it rolled past Kramatorsk’s railway station, not far from the airfield where Ukrainian soldiers clashed with separatists on Tuesday.

Ukrainian military helicopters hovered above the dramatic scenes but there seemed to be no attempt by government forces to try to wrest back control of the situation. The seized armoured personnel carriers were driven to Slavyansk, where a Russian flag had been raised above a checkpoint at the city entrance. A plane resembling a Su-27 circled low over the town’s square.

The pro-Russian militiamen who drove the troop carriers into Slavyansk refused to say where they had got them. “From space,” one said. “They came on their own,” said another.

 

One soldier siding with the separatists in Slavyansk told a Reuters reporter that he and others in his group were part of a Ukrainian paratroop unit who could not shoot “our own people”.

Locals gathered as the militiamen parked the vehicles near city hall. A pair of women recognised one man and hugged him, suggesting that at least some of them were local.

The new “people’s mayor”, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, arrived and greeted the men, then led a group of them off the square towards other occupied buildings.

But not all the locals who had gathered joined the hero’s welcome. One man who identified himself only as Valery angrily asked the militiamen, who were enforcing a wide perimeter around the armoured vehicles, what they were doing.

“Part of the population supports them,” he said. “But people who work, like me – I’m an entrepreneur – they don’t want this.”

Valery said he did not support calls for a referendum and wanted to vote in the presidential elections planned for 25 May, which many here say they will boycott.

“People think everything in Russia is spread with honey,” Valery said – a statement that provoked angry exclamations and arguments from nearby crowds.

Separately, there were unconfirmed reports that armed men had captured the city administration building in nearby Donetsk.

Pro-Russian protesters seeking independence from Kiev have occupied at least nine government buildings in the region for more than a week – but this is the first time that separatist forces deep inside Ukraine have managed to seize heavy military equipment, and a further sign that the situation in the east is slipping out of Kiev’s grip.

Ukrainian government forces launched their first significant military action in the east of the country on Tuesday, clashing with about 30 pro-Russian gunmen at a provincial airfield and heightening fears that the standoff could escalate into a major armed conflict.

Crowds look on as pro-Russian separatists drive round the city on armoured vehicles Crowds look on as pro-Russian separatists drive round the city on armoured vehicles. Photograph: Luke Harding

Shots were fired in Kramatorsk airport as Ukrainian special forces stormed in to reassert Kiev’s control. As troop helicopters hovered above and tempers flared, a Ukrainian general was set upon by a group of local people incensed that two protesters had been injured, knocking off his military-issue fur hat and yelling: “Jail him.”

At the same time as Kramatorsk airport was being seized, elite Ukrainian units were also gathering outside Slavyansk in an operation aimed at taking back control from armed pro-Russian groups.

Ukraine’s acting president said the recapture of the airport was just the first such action aimed at restoring Kiev’s control over the east.

“I just got a call from the Donetsk region: Ukrainian special forces have liberated the airport in the city of Kramatorsk from terrorists,” Oleksandr Turchynov told parliament. “I’m convinced that there will not be any terrorists left soon in Donetsk and other regions and they will find themselves in the dock – this is where they belong.”

Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, declared the Ukrainian moves “anti-constitutional acts” and in a phone call to the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, demanded that the UN condemn them. But the US voiced strong support for the Ukrainian operation, arguing that the government in Kiev had to respond to armed groups.

“We understand the government of Ukraine is working to try to calm the situation in the east and note the measured approach of the Ukrainian security forces thus far,” said the White House press secretary Jay Carney.

Representatives from Ukraine, Russia, the US and the European Union are due to meet in Geneva on Thursday for the first time since the crisis began in February, but there were clear signs that the situation in eastern Ukraine risked spiralling out of control before the diplomats could meet.

The mayor of Slavyansk said the pro-Russian local people there were being supported by unmarked troops from Russia and Crimea. Turchynov gave pro-Russians in eastern Ukraine until Monday morning to give up their arms and the buildings they had seized, but instead a pro-Russian mob took over yet another government building in Horlivka that day. A man who appointed a new police chief there later said he was a lieutenant colonel in the Russian army.

General Vasily Krutov, the commander of the Ukrainian operation in the region, said the government’s ultimatum would not be extended. That would be “too humanitarian”, he said. He said civilian casualties were possible but his forces would try to make sure “not one innocent person suffers”.

“Unfortunately we face a difficult situation because those realising their plan are hiding behind human shields,” Krutov said – an apparent reference to the many pro-Russian local people who have taken part in taking over buildings. “Some of them are cynically working towards their own ends, but many are under the influence of propaganda.”

At the White House, Carney said the Ukrainian authorities had repeatedly sought to negotiate a peaceful resolution with armed groups occupying buildings in eastern cities, and made clear that use of force was not its “preferred action”.

But he continued: “That said, the Ukrainian government has a responsibility to provide law and order. These provocations in eastern Ukraine are creating a situation in which the government has to respond.”

Asked what advice the CIA director, John Brennan, who visited Kiev on Saturday, and other US officials had given security forces in Kiev, Carney replied: “We urged the Ukrainian government to move forward, gradually, responsibly, and with all due caution, as it deals with this situation caused by armed militants.

“Let’s be clear: the way to ensure that violence does not occur is for these armed paramilitary groups, and these armed so-called pro-Russian separatists, to vacate the buildings and to lay down their arms.”

William Hague, the British foreign secretary, said in a speech to the City of London on Tuesday that the EU was completing preparations for “far-reaching economic, trade and financial sanctions whenever necessary” against Moscow.

“In recent days Russia has deliberately pushed Ukraine to the brink, and created a still greater risk of violent confrontation,” he said. “We call on Russia to stop these actions and to condemn the lawless acts in eastern Ukraine.”

The UN human rights office, meanwhile, said ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine had falsely claimed to be under assault to justify Russian intervention, warning that such propaganda could affect Ukraine’s presidential election next month.

Russia condemned the report, saying it was one-sided and seemed to have been “fabricated” to fit pre-formed conclusions.

Includes video:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/16/pro-russian-separatists-seize-ukrainian-armoured-vehicles

 

 

Al Qaeda is Not “On The Run” — Video shows large terrorist gathering in Yemen of “Resurgent Al Qaeda”

April 16, 2014

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Washington (CNN) — A new video shows what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years. And the CIA and the Pentagon either didn’t know about it or couldn’t get a drone there in time to strike.

U.S. officials won’t comment on that, but every frame of the video is now being analyzed by the United States.

In the middle of the clip, the man known as al Qaeda’s crown prince, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, appears brazenly out in the open, greeting followers in Yemen. Al-Wuhayshi, the No. 2 leader of al Qaeda globally and the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has said he wants to attack the United States. But in the video, he looks unconcerned that he could be hit by an American drone.

The video started appearing on jihadist websites recently, drawing the attention of U.S. officials and global terrorism experts. U.S. officials say they believe it’s authentic.

“This is quite an extraordinary video,” Paul Cruickshank, CNN terrorism analyst, said.

The video shows al-Wuhayshi addressing more than 100 fighters somewhere within Yemen, Cruickshank said, a restive nation on the southwestern portion of the Arabian Peninsula. The al Qaeda leader, he said, is “taking a big risk in doing this.”

But he doesn’t mince words about his mission.

In a speech to the group, al-Wuhayshi makes it clear that he’s going after the United States, saying “We must eliminate the cross. … The bearer of the cross is America!”

U.S. officials believe the highly produced video is recent. With some fighters faces blurred, there is worry it signals a new round of plotting.

“The U.S. intelligence community should be surprised that such a large group of al Qaeda assembled together, including the leadership, and somehow they didn’t notice,” said Peter Bergen, CNN national security analyst.

There is good reason to worry.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, also known as AQAP, is considered the most dangerous al Qaeda affiliate. The CIA and the Pentagon have repeatedly killed AQAP leaders with drone strikes. But the group is now emboldened.

“The main problem about this group is that it has a bomb maker who can put bombs on to planes that can’t be detected,” Bergen said.

That bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, is believed to be responsible for severalattack attempts against the United States, including the failed 2009 Christmas Day underwear bomber attack in Detroit.

Al-Asiri doesn’t appear in the video. He remains in hiding, and intelligence experts say he and other AQAP leaders have gone back to using couriers to communicate to avoid detection. That makes it even harder to figure out what al-Wuhayshimay order next.

But the terror group leader’s goal is clear, Cruickshank said.

“His message to the United States,” Cruickshank said, “was very much the same as (former al Qaeda leader Osama) bin Laden’s: ‘We’re coming after you.’ “

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” that leaks tied to Yemen have affected U.S. intelligence collection, but he said he couldn’t say whether U.S. intelligence knew about the meeting.

Chairman: al Qaeda ‘more diverse and more aggressive’ than pre-9/11

Asked by Blitzer whether the United States would have sent a drone if officials had known such a large meeting of terrorists was taking place out in the open, the Michigan Republican said it’s unclear.

“It really depends,” he said. “There are a lot of procedures that one would go through … to do an airstrike on any large package of individuals.”

Seeing such a group of al Qaeda operatives assembled isn’t a surprise, he said.

“I think they have these meetings more often than people realize,” Rogers said. “It’s difficult to get assets in position. You have to know where they are and where they meet at the right time in the right place with the right equipment. That’s a lot to do.”

The video, Rogers says, is another sign that al Qaeda remains a dangerous threat.

“We think that they’re feeling empowered. The less pressure you put on them, the more they take that as a victory, the more that they believe that they can get away with plotting, planning, organizing as you saw there (in the video), finance, training,” he said.

“All of the things that they would need to do to strike a Western target, they’re going through that process.”

Retired Gen. Mark Kimmitt said smaller al Qaeda affiliates are coalescing into a more organized base.

“Sooner or later, if they continue to get better, stronger and more organized,” he said, “they will be a direct threat to the United States.”

It’s unlikely the United States wasn’t aware of the meeting shown in the video, Kimmitt told “CNN Tonight.”

“The question isn’t why didn’t we know,” he said. “The question is: What are we going to do about it?”

VIDEO:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/15/world/al-qaeda-meeting-video/

READ: Al Qaeda controls more territory than ever in Middle East

Al Qaeda leader urges militants to find out who killed his Syria representative

Syria: Top training ground for al Qaeda, Senate is told

CNN’s Catherine E. Shoichet and Bill Weir contributed to this report.

Casual marijuana use just once a week harms young brains: MRI brain scans show emotions and motivation affected

April 16, 2014

Marijuana use  just one or two times a week can damage core structures of the brain

  • Using drug once or twice a week affects core structures of the brain
  • Affects brain regions involved in emotion and motivation, research shows
  • Scientists analysed MRI brain scans of 20 users aged 18 to 25
  • First study to show impact of casual marijuana use on the brain

By Ben Spencer

 

Smoking cannabis casually just one or two times a week can damage core structures of the brain, a study found (library image)

Smoking cannabis even casually can damage core structures of the brain,  an authoritative study  has found.

Just using the drug once or twice a week affects the  size and shape of two key  brain regions involved in emotion and motivation, the research shows.

Smoking cannabis casually just one or two times a week can damage core structures of the brain, a study found (library image)

Smoking cannabis casually just one or two times a week can damage core structures of the brain, a study found (library image)

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2605454/Using-cannabis-just-week-harms-young-brains.html#ixzz2z3RRctOj
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Previous studies have focused on heavy users of cannabis – revealing that the active compound in the drug effectively ‘rewires’ the brain.

But this is the first study that has revealed the impact of casual marijuana use.

The scientists, from Harvard Medical School and Northwestern University in Chicago, analysed MRI brain scans of 20 young cannabis users aged 18 to 25.

They compared them to the brain scans 20 young people who never smoked the drug.

Professor Hans Breiter, one of the researchers from Northwestern University said: ‘This study raises a strong challenge to the idea that casual marijuana use  is not associated with bad consequences.’

The scientists found major differences in two brain areas, the nucleus accumbens and amygdala. Both are linked to emotions and motivation, and also associated with addiction.

In each case changes were seen that were directly related to how much cannabis was smoked.

The nucleus accumbens of cannabis users was unusually large, while the amygdala was deformed.

Professor Breiter said: ‘Some of these people only used marijuana to get high once or twice a week.

‘People think a little recreational use shouldn’t cause a problem, if someone is doing OK with work or school. Our data directly says this is not the case.’

Co-author Dr Anne Blood, from Harvard, said: ‘These are core, fundamental structures of the brain. They form the basis for how you assess positive and negative features about things in the environment and make decisions about them.’

 

More…

The drug users in the study smoked cannabis at least once a week but were not psychologically dependent on their habit. The scientists, whose findings are reported in the Journal of  Neuroscience, believe the effects are the result of users’ brains adapting to low-level exposure  to cannabis.

Previous research has shown that rats given the psychoactive compound in cannabis, THC, effectively have their brains rewired. Psychologist Dr Jodie Gilman, who led the latest study, said: ‘It may be that we’re seeing a type of drug learning in the brain.

Casual use of the drug affects the size and shape of two key brain regions involved in emotion and motivation, scientists found. The study was the first to look solely at those using cannabis irregularly

Casual use of the drug affects the size and shape of two key brain regions involved in emotion and motivation, scientists found. The study was the first to look solely at those using cannabis irregularly

 

Read more:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2605454/Using-cannabis-just-week-harms-young-brains.html#ixzz2z3QCBIu7

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‘We think when people are in the process of becoming addicted, their brains form these new connections.’

Drug addiction expert Dr Carl Lupica, from the United State  National Institute on Drug Abuse, added: ‘This study  suggests that even light to moderate recreational marijuana use can cause changes in  brain anatomy.

‘These observations are particularly interesting because previous studies have focused primarily on the brains of heavy marijuana smokers.’

Dr Michael Bloomfield, of the UK Medical Research Council, said: ‘It’s been known for some time that heavy cannabis use can affect the brain.

‘This new, well-conducted study has some really interesting and important results because it suggests that even moderate use of cannabis in young adults may be  associated with changes  in the brain.’

He said the study would inform separate scientific research that looks at the links between mental illness and  cannabis use.

He added: ‘Taken together, these studies therefore have implications for understanding some of the mental health problems that are associated with cannabis use including schizophrenia, particularly as the younger people are when they use start using cannabis, the higher the risk of mental illnesses down the line.’

Professor Peter Jones, professor of psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, said: ‘This is an interesting piece of research. However, it is limited as it is only a small study. The main point is that, as usual, more research is needed.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2605454/Using-cannabis-just-week-harms-young-brains.html#ixzz2z3Ri8ytG

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Related:

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How much will ObamaCare cost you in taxes? ObamaCare is “a wealth-transfer program with health insurance attached.”

April 16, 2014

By

On this April 15, filers and accountants alike are finding a new array of taxes resulting from the president’s health care legislation. These include at least 20 ObamaCare-related tax increases totaling  $409 billion over the next ten years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

The new taxes are especially irksome to ObamaCare opponents, because they are imposed by a law that passed on a straight party-line vote and are being enforced by an agency that some accuse of party favoritism.

“I think it’s rather unfortunate that the IRS has this huge role in the Affordable Care Act because it’s always controversial,” said Mark Everson, a former IRS Commissioner. “Then, to tie it up with this very controversial domestic law, it just makes the job tougher,” he said.

“I think you can take issue with the way ACA was paid for. But, the fact of the matter is, it’s sustainable over the long run,” said Yvette Fontenot , a former Senior Policy Director at the White House Office of Health Reform.

“It slows health care cost growth for people. And it reduces the deficit, and it was in fact paid for. The Medicare prescription drug benefit that was passed by the Republicans added $400 billon to the deficit and not a dime of it was paid for,” she said.

Among  the new taxes:

- A Medicare Tax Increase of .9 percent for individuals earning over $200,000 or married couples earning $250,000

-A net investment income tax of 3.8 percent tax on individuals, estates, and trusts worth more $200,000 or $250,000 for joint filers.

- And an increase in the threshold for itemized deductions for medical expenses from 7.5 percent  to 10 percent of gross income.

There are also new taxes on insurance companies, drug makers, and medical device manufacturers. Architects of the Affordable Care Act say those businesses can afford it, given the millions of new customers they’ll be serving. “More people will have health insurance and be able to use their product more effectively,” said Fontenot.

But one skeptic said the projected 10-year tax increases from ObamaCare are more than twice what the Joint Committee on Taxation forecasts. “It raises the costs of these things,” said Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. “One of the promises of ObamaCare is that it will reduce costs.  These more than a trillion dollars in tax increases on health care raise the cost of health care and that’s why you’re seeing the price of health care, the cost of insurance, going up, not down,”  he said.

One study  by AdvaMed, a trade association, finds the medical device tax alone may put 45,000 jobs at risk. The National Federation of Independent Businesses  projects that new taxes on insurance companies may jeopardize another 125,000 to 249,000 jobs.

That figure does not include the man-hour costs of complying  with 20,000 pages of regulations.

The Fox News Taxpayer Calculator  breaks down the tax burden over the next 10 years by income level. If you make under $15,000:  it’s just over $59.00. If you make between $50,000 and $100,000, it’s $6,069.90. And if you make between $200,000 and $250,000, it’s $38,200.66

Those  numbers appear to confirm  the observation  of Cato Institute Senior Fellow Michael Tanner that ObamaCare is “a wealth-transfer program with health insurance attached.”

 

Doug McKelway joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in November 2010 and serves as a Washington-based correspondent.

Includes video:

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/04/15/how-much-will-obamacare-cost-in-taxes/

 


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