STANDOFF CONTINUES IN EAST UKRAINE
An ultimatum from acting Ukrainian President Olexandr Turchynov expired this morning, ignored by pro-Russian protesters who have been occupying state buildings in several East Ukrainian cities, increasing fears of further escalation in the region, the BBC reports. Although they were urged to lay down their weapons, armed protesters in Gorlovka (also known as Horlivka) moved this morning to take control of the police headquarters, RT reports. Guardian correspondent Alec Luhn explained on Twitter that a new police chief was named and quoted protesters as saying that “many police have gone over to the side of the people,” as they erected barricades around the building and blockaded the city hall. Meanwhile, the BBC's David Stern said earlier this morning, “The mood in Donetsk is stable. There’s no sign of an operation yet, but it’s extremely tense.”
Turchynov, however, appeared this morning to be trying to appease those in favor of a federalized state. He said that Kiev was “not against” a referendum on the type of state Ukraine should have, and said it could be held simultaneously with the presidential election on May 25. Read more from Reuters.
The recent events come amid increasing tensions between the West and Russia following this weekend’s escalation and last night’s emergency meeting of the UN’s Security Council, called by Moscow. “The international community must demand the stooges of Maidan stop the war against their own people," Russian envoy Churkin said. Meanwhile, Kiev and Washington accused Russia of being behind the takeover of government buildings and of orchestrating a full-scale “terrorist operation.” “We know who is behind this,” U.S. ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said. “Indeed the only entity in the area capable of coordinating these professional military actions is Russia.” In an editorial, The Washington Post writes that “It may be too late to prevent war in eastern Ukraine.”
Speaking at a press conference this morning, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow was not interfering in Ukraine’s domestic affairs and that there were no Russian agents in the country. But the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council claimed that Russian intelligence officers had been arrested, The Kyiv Post reports. Lavrov also demanded explanations from Washington over reports that CIA director John Brennan had visited Kiev, and slammed what he described as “off the scale” hypocrisy from the West. Read more from AFP.
THOUSANDS HOMELESS AFTER CHILE BLAZE
At least 8,000 people were left homeless after a massive fire in the Chilean city of Valparaíso killed 12 and forced some 10,000 to flee, El Mercurío reports. According to the BBC, around 1,200 firefighters are working to control the blaze, which is being fueled by strong winds from the coast.
Archaeologists say the city of Rome is 200 years older than previously thought.
DOZENS FEARED DEAD IN NIGERIA BLAST
Dozens are feared dead after a massive blast in a bus station just outside the Nigerian capital of Abuja, as hundreds of people were traveling to work, local newspaper Vanguard reports. Although no official statement has been released yet, the BBC quotes eyewitnesses as saying that some 40 bodies had been recovered, while rescue teams and the police were gathering body parts. According to AP, the explosion created a hole four feet deep and destroyed more than 30 vehicles. Islamist group Boko Haram is believed to be behind the attack.
As Die Welt’s Thomas Schmid reports, it is clear in hindsight that the EU didn’t take the Ukraine problem seriously enough before Russia asserted itself. “Without a clue as to how dire the situation would soon become, European leaders seem to have not done everything possible to get Yanukovych to sign the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement,” he writes. “What’s more, there was no sense of the true magnitude of the situation. But the EU should have known. After achieving independence, the Ukrainian state and the country’s people never formed a stable entity. Nor was there any legal security, independent justice, or even halfway functioning institutions.”
Read the full article: Ukraine And Western Europe's Blind Spot On Eastern Expansion
SUBMARINE DRONE IN SEARCH OF MH370
Teams searching for the wreckage of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which went missing on March 8, will deploy a submarine drone to explore the sea floor, almost one week after the last signal from what is believed to be the aircraft’s black box was received, Australia’s ABC reports. The unmanned vehicle, Bluefin-21, will first search an area of 40 square kilometers. And according to Angus Houston, who leads the search operations, it “has the potential to take us a further step towards visual identification.”
SYRIAN ARMY RETAKES CHRISTIAN TOWN
The Syrian Army has retaken the ancient Christian town of Maaloula from mainly Islamists rebels, AFP quotes a security official as saying. This is the latest in a series of important victories near the Lebanese border for the Syrian government. According to state news agency Sana, the troops also “dismantled the mines and explosives planted by the terrorists in the town.”
Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Syrian opposition activists claim to have evidence of chlorine gas attacks from forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This comes as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said in a statement that 65% of Syria’s declared chemical stockpile had now been removed, although it added that Damascus must speed up the process if it is to meet the June 30 deadline.
EARTHQUAKES SHAKE NICARAGUA’S CAPITAL
Three earthquakes, including one of 5.6 magnitude, hit Nicaragua’s capital of Managua late yesterday, newspaper La Prensa reports. At least seven houses were damaged, though no casualties were reported, Reuters quotes a local official as saying. The wave of tremors is the third felt in the country in the last five days and the latest in a series of quakes to have hit South America in the past few weeks.
As Reuters reports, “Night owls and early risers in North America will be able to watch a rare celestial show on Tuesday as Earth's shadow falls across the moon, shifting its color from bright orange to blood red to brown, depending on local weather conditions.”
Gas stations in many Iranian cities had trouble supplying fuel earlier in the week in what was a suspected cyberattack on the fuel distribution system. One Tehran daily on Thursday blamed Israel, which may have carried out similar acts in past years, to weaken Iran's hostile regime.
The incident reportedly disrupted the credit and debit card payments system this time, forcing users to pay cash and higher prices, the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported.
Though state officials didn't publicly accuse anyone specific, they did say perhaps this and other attacks had been planned for October, to "anger people" on the anniversary of the anti-government protests of 2019.
Khamenei, where's our gas?
Cheeky slogans were spotted Tuesday in different places in Iran, including electronic panels over motorways. One of them read "Khamenei, where's our gas?"
Iran International reported that Tehran-based news agency ISNA posted, then deleted, a report on drivers also seeing the message "cyberattack 64411" on screens at gas stations, purported to be the telephone number of the office of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
A member of parliament's National Security Committee, Vahid Jalalzadeh, said the attack had been planned months ahead, and had inflicted "grave losses," Iran International and domestic agencies reported Thursday. The conservative Tehran newspaper Kayhan named "America, the Zionist regime and their goons" as the "chief suspects" in the attack.
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