UKRAINE “WANTS TO SIGN EU DEAL,” ASHTON SAYS
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych assured her he intended to sign a free-trade deal with the European Union, although he didn’t specify when, the BBC reports.
A government delegation will be travelling to Brussels later today for further talks with EU officials, according to Interfax.
Meanwhile, the U.S. State department is considering imposing sanctions on Ukraine after police removed protesters from Kiev’s Independence Square, Ria Novosti reports.
SYRIAN OPPOSITION LEADER FORCED OUT BY ISLAMISTS
The commander of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, General Salim Idris, has fled Syria after Islamists took over the main opposition group’s headquarters, The Wall Street Journal quotes U.S. officials as saying.
The United States and Britain had already announced yesterday the suspension of non-lethal aid to the opposition after fighters for the Islamist Front took control of bases belonging to the Free Syrian Army.
According to Reporters Without Borders, four Syrian human rights activists were abducted from an office near Damascus, in an area controlled by the opposition. One of the activists, Razan Zaitouneh, had apparently received threats from at least one armed group. This comes after reports Tuesday that two Spanish journalists have been kidnapped by a group linked to al-Qaeda.
For more on the Islamist presence in Syria, we offer this Radikal/Worldcrunch piece, After Backing Syria's Islamist Rebels, Turkey Now Fears Al-Qaeda "Boomerang"
ACCIDENTAL EXPLOSION NEAR U.S. EMBASSY IN KABUL
A powerful explosion that hit an arms depot near the U.S. embassy in Kabul early this morning was apparently accidental, alleviating fears of an attack, Reuters reports. According to Afghan officials, nobody was injured in the blast.
TWO DEAD IN RIO FLOODINGS
At least two people are reported dead in the state of Rio de Janeiro after torrential rains caused floods and landslides yesterday, Folha de São Paulo reports. More than 2,000 families have lost their homes. Two municipalities of the region declared the state of emergency and will receive federal aid, including police officers, to help stop lootings.
The sign-language interpreter for Nelson Mandela’s memorial service who has been widely blasted as an “imposter” for his “fake” and unintelligible performance has apologized, saying he is a schizophrenic.
World-famous photographer Kate Barry was found dead late Wednesday on the pavement below her fourth-floor apartment in a tony Paris neighborhood.
BY THE NUMBERS
Forbes magazine has released its annual list of highest-ranking celebrities. See who tops the female category.
A Japanese cat lover was arrested on suspicion of stealing $185,000 to feed his 120 cats.