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More Crimean Chaos, China Slams U.S., Northern Lights In UK

An unidentified soldier patroling a Crimean  airport
An unidentified soldier patroling a Crimean airport

A group of armed men sympathetic to fallen Ukrainian regime raided the two main airports in Crimea overnight, sending the newly formed Ukrainian government on alert. Interior Minister Arsen Avakov accused Russia of carrying out “an armed invasion and occupation.” The Russian Black Sea Fleet, which has a base at Sevastopol airport near the city’s port, denied that its forces were involved.

  • A spokesman for the airport, however, denied that the building had been seized, RT reports. According to the man, “about 50 armed men arrived at the airport to search for Ukrainian airborne troops. However, after finding out that there were no military personnel present on the tarmac, they apologized and left.” Some of them are still patroling the airport.

  • The gunmen refused to tell ITV journalist James Mates if they were Ukrainian or Russian. The identity of the men is still unclear, with RT journalist Alexey Yaroshevsky writing on Twitter that the uniforms of the men at Simferopol airport “do not look like Russian army uniforms” and they don’t carry Russian flags.

  • Viktor Yanukovych, who said yesterday he was still the “legitimate president,” is due to hold a news conference later today in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don. If his presence in Russia is confirmed, Kiev officials said they would demand he be extradited, according to AFP. Meanwhile, Swiss authorities have launched a criminal investigation against the ousted president and his son for "aggravated money laundering," AP reports.

  • The Ukrainian Central Bank announced it will limit the withdrawal of foreign currencies to $1,500 a day in a bid to stabilize the value of the national currency, Reuters reports. This comes as Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said the country had frozen the assets of 18 members of Yanukovych’s leadership suspected of corruption and human rights violations, newspaper Die Presse quotes him as saying. In a similar move, the Swiss government ordered the freezing of the assets of 20 people, including Yanukovych and his son.

China released a critical human rights report on the United States today, just one day after Washington issued a similar report about China’s rights abuses. According to Xinhua, the Chinese report denounces U.S. positioning as “the world judge of human rights” while at the same time carrying out drone attacks and spying programs such as the NSA’s PRISM, described as “a blatant violation of international law.”

An arrest warrant has been issued for Carlos Vecchio, a leader of Venezuela’s right-wing party, one week after another figure party leader, Leopoldo López, turned himself in, El Universal reports. Vecchio is suspected of arson, public incitement, damage and criminal association, the same charges brought against López, according to AFP. Yesterday, between 2,000 and 3,000 people demonstrated in a wealthy suburb of Caracas until small groups clashed with the police for attempting to block a highway.

For more about the Venezuelan crisis, we offer this El Espectador/Worldcrunch article, The Truth About Venezuela's Popular Opposition.

The World Bank has decided to postpone a $90 million loan for Uganda to improve its health services, the BBC reports. The move comes after the country passed into law a bill that allows life imprisonment for acts of “aggravated homosexuality” and also criminalizes the “promotion of homosexuality.” Writing in The Washington Post, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said such legislation “can hurt a country’s competitiveness by discouraging multinational companies from investing or locating their activities in those nations.”

Southern California is bracing itself for an important storm, with heavy rainfall expected, raising the risk of mudslides in areas affected by wildfires, theLos Angeles Times reports

The fortunes of Argentina's 15 richest people are roughly equal the country’s Central Bank reserves.

People across the UK were treated Thursday night to a rare display of the Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights. See some beautiful images here.


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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Palestinian Olive Trees Are Also Under Israeli Occupation — And That's Not A Joke

In the West Bank, a quieter form of oppression has been plaguing Palestinians for a long time. Their olive groves are surrounded by soldiers, and it's forbidden to harvest the olives – this economic and social violence has gotten far worse since Oct. 7.

A Palestinian woman holds olives in her hands

In a file photo, Um Ahmed, 74, collects olives in the village of Sarra on the southwest of the West Bank city of Nablus.

Mohammed Turabi/ZUMA
Francesca Mannocchi

HEBRON – It was after Friday prayers on October 13th of last year, and Zakaria al-Arda was walking along the road that crosses his property's hillside to return home – but he never made it.

A settler from Havat Ma'on — an outpost bordering Al-Tuwani that the United Nations International Law and Israeli law considers illegal — descended from the hill with his rifle in hand.

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After kicking al-Arda, who tried to defend himself, the settler shot him in the abdomen. The bullet pierced through his stomach, a few centimeters below the lungs. Since then, al-Arda has been in the hospital in intensive care. A video of those moments clearly shows that neither al-Arda nor the other worshippers leaving the mosque were carrying any weapons.

The victim's cousin, Hafez Hureini, still lives in the town of Al-Tuwani. He is a farmer, and their house on the slope of the town is surrounded by olive trees — and Israeli soldiers. On the pine tree at the edge of his property, settlers have planted an Israeli flag. Today, Hafez lives, like everyone else, as an occupied individual.

He cannot work in his greenhouse, cannot sow his fields, and cannot harvest the olives from his precious olive trees.

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