PUTIN REFERENDUM REQUEST IGNORED
Pro-Russian activists in the region of Donetsk announced that a referendum on the region’s status would go ahead as planned on Sunday, despite yesterday’s call from Russian President Vladimir Putin to postpone it, RT reports. Earlier Ukraine officials had said that the military operation in Eastern Ukrainewould continue regardless of whether the referendum, which the Kiev government regards as illegal, was delayed.
The decision from Donetsk is a blow to Putin’s step towards de-escalation yesterday, with one of the favorites in the Ukrainian presidential race, Petro Poroshenko, saying he “welcomed” the initiative “with cautious optimism.” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that Putin’s “constructive tone” could mark “a decisive point” in the Ukrainian crisis.
Moscow and NATO, however, had a heated exchange, with the Russian Foreign Ministry saying that NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was “blind” after he wrote on Twitter that, contrary to what Putin had announced, he had seen no sign that Russian troops had withdrawn from the Ukrainian border. “I have very good vision, but while we've noted Russia’s statement so far we haven't seen any — any — indication of troops pulling back,” he posted later.
A poll conducted by the Washington-based Pew Research Center found that 70% of the population in Eastern Ukraine want their country to keep its current borders. Even 58% of Russian speakers agree. Read more from AP.
More than 50,000 malnourished children are “at death’s door” in Somalia, according to a new report from a group of aid agencies. “The problem with Somalia is that it has been a crisis for over 20 years,” says Oxfam’s Ed Pomfret. “People more or less roll their eyes and think: "Pirates, terrorists, hunger and death. What can I do about that?”
REWARD ON MISSING NIGERIAN GIRLS
The hunt for abducted Nigerian schoolgirls continues as the U.S., the UK and France join forces with local authorities. Nigerian police are offering a reward of $300,000 to anybody providing information leading to the rescue of the 276 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram three weeks ago, Vanguard reports. This came after news yesterday that the Islamist group had killedat least 336 people when it attacked a town in Nigeria’s northeastern region.
HUGE EXPLOSION IN ALEPPO
A hotel used by Syrian troops as a military base in the northern city of Aleppo was completely destroyed by what local media have described as a “huge explosion” with a high number of casualties among the troops likely. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that rebels from the Islamic Front had “planted a huge amount of explosives in a tunnel they dug below the Carlton hotel,” which they detonated remotely. Read the full story from AP.
MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD
FERRY COMPANY OFFICIAL ARRESTED
South Korean police have arrested the head of the sunken ferry’s operator, and charges against him include “manslaughter and a violation of the act on vessel safety,” Yonhap news agency reports. This comes amid mounting fears for the safety of diverssearching the wreckage after one of them died Tuesday. There are still 35 people missing, and 269 bodies have been recovered, but the searches are being hampered by poor weather conditions and high waves.
MERS DISEASE SPREADS IN SAUDI ARABIA
Eighteen more cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) have been identified in Saudi Arabia, after four people died from the disease yesterday, Reuters reports. A total of 449 people in the country have now been infected with MERS, a form ofcoronavirus, causing 121 deaths since it was identified two years ago. The United States detected its first case last week, and Slate explains in a very detailed piece that the virus will be very difficult to stop.
For more on the subject, we offer this CFR/Worldcrunch article, Why A Saudi Virus Is Spreading Alarm.
ANC LEADING GENERAL ELECTION
South Africa’s African National Congress party has taken an early lead in yesterday’s general election with almost half of the votes counted. According to the Mail & Guardian, incumbent President Jacob Zuma’s party has just about 60% of the vote, while the opposition party Democratic Alliance is in second place with 23%. Although the ANC is expected to win the elections, theBBC explains that any result under 60% will be seen “as a major upset.”
CRUELEST TAXI DRIVER EVER?
The Japanese police have arrested a cab driver who nourished a bizarre sexual thrill by routinely offering his female passengers snacks laced with diuretics so he could watch and film them as they grew desperate to go to the toilet. Tip for tourists in Osaka: Don’t accept food in taxis!