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Ukraine Ceasefire, Congress OKs Keystone Pipeline, Nut Case

LEADERS AGREE ON UKRAINE CEASEFIRE
After hours-long negotiations in Minsk, leaders Petro Poroshenko, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel and François Hollande (Photo: Henadzi/Xinhua/ZUMA) have reached what the French president described as a “comprehensive deal” for a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine to begin at midnight Saturday. Putin was the first one to speak after the meeting adjourned, saying that the deal also included withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the line of contact. Under the agreement, all prisoners must be released. Pro-Russian rebels have signed a roadmap to implement the truce.

  • Some issues have yet to be resolved, namely what status will be granted to the rebel-controlled and self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. While the four leaders committed to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the deal includes what Putin described as a “constitutional reform that should take into consideration the legitimate rights of people who live in Donbass.” According to the BBC, further talks will be held to decide on the matter.
  • The New York Times characterized the deal as “fragile,” noting “the fact that the leaders used three separate news conferences to announce the accord suggested a lack of unity.”
  • Moments before the agreement was made public, the International Monetary Fund announced a total financing package of about $40 billion for the next four years. IMF chief Christine Lagarde said the bailout could be “a turning point” for Ukraine.

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The captain of the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia was sentenced to 16 years in prison yesterday after being found guilty of causing a maritime disaster, abandoning ship and manslaughter. Thirty-two people died when the ship, which was too close to the shore, hit rocks and sank off the Tuscan island of Giglio. Read more in our 4 corners blog.

GREECE, EU BAILOUT TALKS GO NOWHERE
Greece’s anti-austerity government and the EU have failed to reach a deal on renegotiating the country’s huge bailout program, which Prime Minister Tsipras wants to end, the BBC reports. Though both sides have said there’s still hope for a deal, talks will go down to the wire next week, with the current bailout expiring at month’s end. Failure to agree on an extension would mean Greece defaulting on its debts and possibly leaving the Eurozone.

VERBATIM
“If she wants to go to eat noodles, then she can go, but if we prohibit her, then she cannot go,” Thailand's junta chief said about former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, by way of explaining just how close the military is watching the ousted leader.

OBAMA REQUESTS WAR POWERS
U.S. President Barack Obama submitted to Congress Wednesday a request for legal authorization to fight the ISIS terror group in Iraq and Syria, though he stopped short of requesting power for a full-scale military intervention. According to The New York Times, Obama’s request puts “some handcuffs on his power” and imposes a three-year limit on American action.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Hide-And-Seek Of Drone Warfare, A Letter From Ukraine's Front Line

A member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces writes his account of the new dynamic of targeting, and being targeted by, the invading Russian troops, as drones circle above and trenches get left behind.

A Ukrainian military drone operator during a testing of anti-drone rifle in Kyiv.

Igor Lutsenko*

KYIV — The current war in Ukraine is a game of hide-and-seek. Both sides are very well-stocked with artillery, enough to destroy the enemy along many kilometers. Swarms of drones fly through the air day and night, keeping a close eye on the earth's surface below. If they notice something interesting, it immediately becomes a target. Depending on the priority, they put it in line for destruction by artillery.

Therefore, the only effective way to survive is to hide, or at least somehow prove to the drones your non-priority status — and avoid moving to the front of the 'queue of death.'

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In general, the nature of this queue is a particular thing. It may seem to be a god, but is instead a simple artillery captain's decision of when to have lunch, and when to fire on the house where several enemy soldiers are staying. It's just a handful of ordinary people (observers, artillerymen) deciding how long their enemies will live depending on their own schedule or the weather, the availability of ammunition or if they're feeling tired.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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