CAN U.S. AND RUSSIA START DIALOGUE ON UKRAINE?
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov are meeting today in Paris with other world leaders, on the sidelines of a long-planned conference on Lebanon. The encounter will be an attempt “to ease mounting tensions,” according to France24. It comes after Kerry’s threats yesterday to isolate Russia “politically, diplomatically and economically” if the standoff continues over the contested Crimea region of Ukraine. A Russian senator said any sanctions imposed on Russia “should be reciprocal,” as the upper house of the Russian Parliament is looking into ways to freeze European and American assets, Itar-Tass reports.
Speaking earlier at a press conference with Spain’s Foreign Minister, Lavrov expressed concern over the situation in Ukraine, which he said was “a multi-faceted problem” and could eventually become "contagious," the BBC reports. Russian Defense Minister General Sergei Shoigu told journalists that groups described by Russia as self-defense organizations are not linked with the Russian army. This comes as a diplomatic source told AFP that a military observation mission from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe would be sent to Ukraine.
Riot police in the eastern city of Donetsk, hometown of deposed President Viktor Yanukovych, evacuated a government building occupied by pro-Russian demonstrators after reports of a bomb in the building. Read more from ITV. Meanwhile, Interfax news agency quoted a Ukrainian military source as saying that Russian forces had seized two Ukrainian missile defense battalions, but the Ukrainian Defense Ministry did not confirm the report, according to Reuters.
Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of far-right group Right Sector, which took part in the Maidan protests, was put on the international wanted list, Itar-Tass quotes the spokesperson for Russia’s Investigative Committee as saying. For more on the Ukrainian far-right, read this report from Britain’s Channel 4 news: How the far-right took top posts in Ukraine's power vacuum.
The President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso announced the EU would provide 11 billion euros ($15 billion) of financial aid to Ukraine over the next two years, following the U.S. pledge Tuesday to give Ukraine $1 billion. The new government in Kiev said last week it would need $35 billion over the next two years. According to AFP, documents from the central bank show that Russia sold a record $11.3 billion in foreign currency to support the ruble and limit the scale of the currency’s fall on Monday.
To better grasp the historical and cultural differences between Ukraine’s west and east, here is a Le Monde/Worldcrunch analysis: Ukraine: Buried By History, Lost In Translation.
Anti-government protestors in Venezuela vow to return to the streets on the first anniversary of Hugo Chavez’s death.
DEADLY GUNFIGHT IN SOUTH SUDAN CAPITAL
Witnesses in the South Sudan capital of Juba have told AFP that several people died early this morning following heavy gunfighting, although there has still been no official confirmation of the number of victims. According to local radio station Tamazuj, the fighting started after an argument between soldiers and a military pay committee.
ISRAELI ARMY SHOOTS TWO HEZBOLLAH FIGHTERS
Israeli soldiers shot two Hezbollah fighters who allegedly tried to plant a bomb on the fence separating the Golan Heights (a Syrian territory occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War in 1967) and Syrian-held territory, website Ynet news quoted the army as saying. The army spokeswoman did not confirm the condition of the two fighters. This comes as the situation between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah is growing increasingly tense, after last week’s air strike by the Israeli army for which Hezbollah vowed to retaliate.
TRIAL OF AL-JAZEERA JOURNALISTS RESUMES IN EGYPT
The trial of three al-Jazeera journalists accused of spreading false news and of supporting the banned Muslim Brotherhood is to resume today in Egypt. The three men and the news organization deny the charges brought against them. According to the BBC, the trial is “a test of Egypt's army-backed government and its attitude to freedom of the press”.
Tel Aviv-based Calcalist visits an upscale neighborhood of the city where personal security has become a virtual obsession:
"After a few visits here, you realize that beneath the sleepy surface, layers on top of layers of security have been constructed. At first, security tools and personnel were meant to protect the residents and their belongings — but it has evolved into a service aimed at sweeping out all those who “do not belong,” as they are referred to.
No fewer than 150 security cameras are installed throughout the neighborhood. Most of them are visible to all and installed on fences or attached to the houses they surround. According to Goldberg, the visibility of cameras serves as a deterrence."
Read the full article: In Upscale Tel Aviv, Where Uber-Security Mentality Reigns.
BLAST KILLS THREE SOLDIERS IN PAKISTAN
At least three soldiers from the Pakistani army were killed by a roadside bomb near the northwestern town of Hangu, Reuters reports. The blast comes two days after an attack in a court that killed 11 people despite a ceasefire between the government and the Taliban.
MIDDLE-EAST ENVOYS TO QATAR RECALLED
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have recalled their envoys to Qatar, saying the move is an attempt “to protect their security and stability,” Al Arabiya reports.
MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD
EMBARRASSING DSK POLL
Dominique Strauss-Kahn is gone but not forgotten from French politics. This poll was so surprising, Le Parisien newspaper didn’t even publish it ...