OBAMA-PUTIN PHONE CALL, EU SANCTIONS
European Union leaders decided yesterday to suspend negotiations with Russia on investment and visa-free travel but warned Moscow that a second round of sanctions, which could include freezing assets and travel bans, was possible if it “jeopardizes the Ukrainian sovereignty,” Euronews quotes French President Francois Hollande saying. At the same time, Brussels also agreed to sign an association agreement that includes free trade with Ukraine. A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry urged all parties to “avoid further deterioration” and appeared to criticize the threat of sanctions, Itar-Tass reports.
Meanwhile, the speaker of Russia’s upper House of Parliament, Valentina Matviyenko, said there will be no war with Ukraine. “It’s complete nonsense, it absolutely does not reflect our intentions, the feelings of empathy and the pain we feel for the Ukrainian people,” ITV reports. Matviyenko also said that the Parliament would support the referendum in Crimea if voters decide to join Russia. In Kiev, however, interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk declared that no one in the civilized world would recognize the “so-called referendum,” echoing Obama’s words that the vote was “illegal.”
Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets claims that former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych has been taken to a Moscow hospital after a heart attack and that his condition is “grave.”
The situation in Ukraine is likely to affect the Paralympic Games set to begin today in Sochi, two weeks after the end of the Winter Olympics. This morning, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told radio station France Info that no officials would travel there, as their presence would be “inappropriate.” Similarly, the U.S., Britain and Germany will not send representatives to Sochi. But Ukraine announced that its athletes would take part in the games, the BBC reports.
Meanwhile, the Japanese government said today that transactions in the virtual unit could be subject to taxation, even though it doesn’t recognize it as a currency, The Japan Times reports. This comes one week after the collapse of Mt. Gox, an exchange based in Tokyo. For more on Bitcoin, we offer this America Economia/Worldcrunch piece: Bitcoin Cometh: Why Digital Money Is Bound To Take Over.
MALARIA SPREADING WITH WARMER TEMPERATURES
BY THE NUMBERS
And Argentine officials have found the remains of a Spanish ship that sank in 1765.
MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD
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Meet the world’s fastest man at … typing on a keyboard with his nose.