"Chaotic" Ukraine Referendum, Possible Schoolgirls Exchange, BFF Twins

Sunday prayers in Kiev’s Independence Square
Sunday prayers in Kiev’s Independence Square

The Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk voted overwhelmingly yesterday in favor of political independence from Kiev, with regional Electoral Commissions claiming to have counted close to 90% in support in Donetsk and over 96% in Luhansk in what The New York Times describes as “chaotic and sometimes violent plebiscites.” According to RT, the turnout was over 75% in both regions despite fears of violence and even as at least two people were killed by Ukrainian forces. This morning, the country’s acting President Olexandr Turchynov dismissed the referendum as a “farce” and rejected the reported turnout, saying that less than a third of the people had voted. CNN, meanwhile, published a video allegedly recorded at a polling station in Donetsk where people are seen voting multiple times.

Russia said it would respect the result of yesterday’s vote and called for dialogue between Kiev and the eastern regions, The Guardian reports. Moscow’s reaction came as EU foreign ministers were gathering in Brussels, where they are expected to expand sanctions against Russia. Reuters quotes diplomats as saying that 14 new people and two Crimea-based companies could be added to the list of sanctions.

  • Russian news agency Ria Novosti reports that Ukrainian forces launched mortar shells on a village near the eastern city of Sloviansk, destroying many homes and killing several civilians. German tabloid Bild am Sonntag published an article yesterday claiming that 400 elite U.S. commandos from private security company Greystone are involved in the “anti-terrorist operation” in eastern Ukraine, echoing previous allegations from Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Read more in English from Voice of Russia.

“The privacy argument is pitted against the much more instinctive and visceral danger: that you and your children are going to be blown up by terrorists,” journalist Glenn Greenwald writes in his forthcoming book. Read more here.

In a new video obtained by AFP and allegedly showing the abducted Nigerian schoolgirls, Islamist group Boko Haram says the girls have been converted to Islam and will not be freed until all of the Islamist group’s jailed militants are liberated. Yesterday, the governor of the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno, where the girls were kidnapped, said he had information about their whereabouts.

  • A 19-year-old student who managed to escape the abductors told AP about her difficulties returning to a normal life after being kidnapped, explaining: “I am pained that others could not summon the courage to run away with me. Now I cry each time I come across their parents and see how they weep when they see me.” The New York Times published an emotionally charged report from the girls’ hometown of Chibok, where parents told journalist Adam Nossiter, “Every day, I am in deep sorrow. I don’t even feel like eating.”


Iran unveiled yesterday what it says is a successfully reproduced version of a U.S. drone captured in 2011 as well as images recorded by the unmanned aircraft of American personnel at a base in Kandahar, PressTV reports. According to AFP, the replica of the U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel will soon take a test flight. This comes as the United Nations’ atomic watchdog is due to meet Tehran officials in Vienna today to discuss the country’s nuclear program.

As Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Kathleen Hildebrand writes, things can become awkward between friends who happen to be at very different points in their professional lives. “When people with money are friends with people of modest means, the disparities don’t typically end with the bank accounts,” the journalist writes. “One person in the friendship often feels less comfortable than the other, and it tends to be the one with less money — the friend who can’t afford to join the group at the restaurant or go on the weekend trip, the one whose share may be paid for by the others.”
Read the full article:
Drinks Tonight? How Income Disparity Affects Friendships.

Libyan authorities announced yesterday that they had recovered 20 more bodies of migrants who died after the boat they were traveling on sank last week, taking the total death toll to at least 40, according to Al Jazeera. There are, however, conflicting reports about the exact date the boat sank as well as the number of passengers aboard, with the Libyan Navy saying that at least 74 people are still missing, while 51 have been rescued. Since Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011, the country has been the main crossing point for migrants looking to enter the EU. Another group of migrants, most of whom are believed to be women and children, is also reported missing in the Sahel-Sahara region between Algeria and Niger, after 13 bodies were found yesterday. Read more from SAPA.

Chinese police in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have arrested 232 people in connection with disseminating violent or terrorism-related videos.

Poor weather conditions have forced South Korean authorities to suspend for the third day in a row the search inside the ferry that sank on April 16, where the bodies of the 29 people still missing are believed to be trapped, Yonhap news agency reports. Yesterday, prosecutors working on the investigation summoned relatives of the ferry’s owner for questioning, but his eldest son reportedly ignored it.

The weekend’s most heartwarming story came from Ohio, where identical twins Jillian and Jenna were born holding hands after surviving a dangerous and rare monoamniotic gestation, meaning that the two shared the same amniotic sac and placenta.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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