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Russia starts military drills
2014.04.25 05:39:41

Russia has started military drills near the Ukrainian border in response to operations by Ukrainian forces against pro-Kremlin separatists and NATO exercises in eastern Europe.

Russia's defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, is quoted as saying: "If this military machine is not stopped, it will lead to greater numbers of dead and wounded. Planned exercises by NATO forces in Poland and the Baltic countries do not foster normalization of the situation surrounding Ukraine, either. We are forced to react to such a development of the situation." [Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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admin
To summarise today's developments
2014.04.25 05:38:32

* Ukraine forces clear three checkpoints outside the separatist held town of Slovyansk. Up to five people are reported killed.

* Russian president Vladimir Putin says such an attack would be a "serious crime", or "grave crime", depending on the translation of his comment.

* Kiev says its forces repelled an attack on a military base outside Artemivsk and took control of the town hall in another city in the east, Mariupol.

* The US president, Barack Obama, accused Russia of not adhering to the spirit of the Geneva deal to ease tensions in Ukraine.

That's it from me today. Many thanks for sticking with us.



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | United States

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Armored BTR troop carrier
2014.04.25 05:35:44

Another video, this one showing what looks like an armored BTR troop carrier near the burning remains of a checkpoint. Posted by Igordolar on Youtube, and verified by Storyful.

And another.



Tags: Russia | Ukraine

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Another video on the roadblock operation
2014.04.25 05:33:54

Another video on the roadblock operation, this time uploaded to Youtube by Graham Phillips. It is described as showing the aftermath of an attack on a roadblock in the area.



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Russia warns Ukraine over use of troops
2014.04.25 05:32:17

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said on Thursday that there would be consequences if Kiev authorities had used the army against pro-Russian activists in east Ukraine.

This... is just a punitive operation and it will of course incur consequences for the people making these decisions, including on our interstate relations.

[Reuters]

More from Putin:

If Kiev really began to use the army against the country's population... that is a very serious crime against its own people.



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Slovyansk raid
2014.04.25 05:30:14

Here's some footage reportedly of the Slovyansk raid, uploaded to Youtube by Eugene Sherlaimov. The social media verification service Storyful is checking for veracity.

I've seen the Reuters video of the incident, but sadly can't get it up on this liveblog just yet due to technology "issues". Anyway, it shows burning barricades, helicopters in the air and APCs flying Ukraine flags.



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Ukraine troops take Slovyansk checkpoint
2014.04.25 05:28:18

Ukrainian troops with five light armored vehicles took control of a checkpoint north of Slovyansk on Thursday after pro-Russian separatists appeared to abandon the position, Reuters journalists said from the scene.

When the armored unit approached along a road from Sviatogorsk, which Ukraine's government said it recaptured on Wednesday, militants set up a smokescreen of burning tyres. Within half  an hour, the Ukrainian force was in control of the position near the village of Khrestyshche.

No shots were heard.

Ukrainian forces appear to be closing in on Slovyansk, a city of 130,000 which is entirely controlled by separatist fighters. [Reuters]



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admin
Recap of the day's events so far
2014.04.25 05:27:02

In Ukraine, forces loyal to Kiev are reported to have thwarted an attack by pro-Russian rebels on an army base in Mariupol. The acting interior minister said that the rebels were aided by Russian soldiers, and were being lead by a Russian man with a "vast beard" who had been photographed leading rebels in Slovyansk.

In Artemivsk, pro-Russians were ejected from the town hall by Ukraine police, with the government saying it was now back under their control. Some reports say that a group of masked men entered the town hall and started beating those inside, who then called the police. Five people were reported injured.

In Slovyansk, the AFP news agency reports fighting at a roadblock controlled by rebels.

In Japan, the US president, Barack Obama, said Russia was failing the spirit of a deal agreed in Geneva last week to ease the tension in east Ukraine. Namely, not telling pro-Russian rebels to withdraw from public buildings they were occupying.

In Moscow, Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said that he expected the Geneva deal to be implemented in the "near future". He also accused the US of trying to stage a "color revolution" in Ukraine.



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Syrian government airstrikes
2014.04.25 05:24:57

Syrian government airstrikes have struck a market in a northern town Thursday, killing at least 30 people and wounding others, activists have said.

Fighter jets hit the crowded market in Aleppo province town of Alatarb early Thursday morning, the Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights said. [AP]



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admin
More trouble
2014.04.25 05:24:17

Shooting was heard and a rebel roadblock was in flames in Slovyansk on Thursday, an AFP journalist there said.

Pro-Russian gunmen in the town were retreating to defensive positions as a helicopter flew overhead. One rebel said he saw seven Ukrainian army armored vehicles near the roadblock on fire. [AFP]



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Britain launches attempt to stop Syria-war participation
2014.04.25 05:23:30

British police are launching a nationwide effort to prevent young people from traveling to Syria to fight in the ongoing civil war.

Metropolitan Police officials said on Thursday that they are increasingly concerned about the number of young people intending to go to Syria to join the conflict.

They also said the number of Syria-related arrests in Britain has risen, with 40 reported in the first three months of 2014 compared with 25 in all of last year.

[AP]



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admin
On the financial side of the conflict
2014.04.25 05:21:52

Russia's Gazprom has slapped Ukraine energy firm Naftogaz with an additional $11.4 billion gas bill, more than five times its previous claim, ratcheting up pressure on Kiev.



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Syrians desperately in need
2014.04.25 05:02:39

Access for foreign aid for millions of Syrians desperately in need has not improved, violating a Security Council resolution passed two months ago, the UN chief said in a report Wednesday.

In February, the Security Council passed the first humanitarian resolution of the three-year civil war, demanding that the government and armed opposition allow aid to reach civilians.

But almost 3.5 million people remain without access to essential goods and services, including life-saving medicines, in a "clear violation" of international law, wrote Ban Ki-moon.

The report sent to the Security Council blamed both sides in the war but singled out the government for particular censure.

The security situation is deteriorating and humanitarian access to those most in need is not improving. It remains an extremely challenging environment in which to work

said the document.

Thousands of people are not getting the medical care that they need, which Ban described as "arbitrary and unjustified" and "a clear violation of international humanitarian law."

"I must again urge the parties, and in particular the government.. to honor their obligations under international humanitarian law and act now," he said in the report.

[AFP]



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Removal of separatist protesters in Mariupol
2014.04.25 05:00:07

Yulia Lasazan, a spokeswoman for Mariupol's police department, told AP that about 30 men masked men armed with baseball bats stormed the town hall in the early hours of Thursday and started beating the protesters.

It was not clear why the protesters, some of whom were believed to be armed, did not offer resistance but called the police instead. Five people were taken to a hospital, Lasazan said.

He added that the police controlled the area around the town hall and were negotiating with the remaining protesters for them to leave the building.



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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admin
British police reached out to Muslim women
2014.04.25 04:58:12

British police reached out to Muslim women on Thursday in an attempt to prevent young people going to fight in Syria, after a sharp rise in arrests related to the conflict.

Counter-terrorism officials launched a national campaign to raise awareness of the risks of traveling to Syria, especially for those who just want to offer humanitarian aid.

The campaign was prompted by an increase in the number of Britons caught traveling or returning from Syria, from 25 arrests last year to 40 in the first three months of 2014.



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admin
Avakov's Facebook post...
2014.04.25 04:57:27

This is the Bing translation of Avakov's Facebook post...

1. Mariupol.
City Hall released for normal operation. Is the role of civil society activists. The INTERIOR MINISTRY is pursuing the process of normal functioning. Bomb experts checked a building now. The City Council is taken under protection. The Mayor is already inside. As said before: dissident-dialogue and discourse, the terrorists hard answer to destruction. In this case, there were no casualties. And it is good and right. The normalization of the situation in the city would continue.

2. Artemivsk.
The current short report. The night was an attack on the military unit, in order to obtain weapons. Attacked a group of about 70 people, headed by the Russian military (caught on many images in slavyansk-with a vast beard). The military repulsed the attack. Wounded soldiers.



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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
2014.04.25 04:18:11

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded on Wednesday that the Security Council take action in Syria on violations of international law as he reported to the body that none of the warring parties was adhering to UN demands for aid access.

In his second monthly report to the 15-member council on the implementation of a resolution demanding great humanitarian aid access in Syria, Ban said "none of the parties to the conflict have adhered to the demands of the Council."

The Security Council must take action to deal with these flagrant violations of the basic principles of international law...

he wrote in the 21-page report. He did not specify what measures the council should take.

[Reuters]



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Ukraine repels raid on army base
2014.04.25 04:16:26

Following Lavrov's comments on Geneva, the Reuters news agency reports Ukraine as saying its forces were attacked by Russian soldiers, but also that one group of separatists had abided by the Geneva deal.

Ukraine repels raid on army base

The Ukrainian government said troops repelled an overnight raid on a base at Artemivsk, between Donetsk and Slaviansk, in eastern Ukraine on Thursday.

A soldier was wounded in the attack by about 70 people. The interior minister, Arsen Avakov, said on Facebook the attackers were led by Russian soldiers. Casualties for the attackers were unknown, he said.

Avakov also said pro-Russian protesters had left the town hall in Mariupol, an industrial city on the Black Sea coast, and the mayor was back in his office - meeting the agreements made with Russia at a Geneva meeting a week ago. [Reuters]



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admin
Calling urgently on Syrian
2014.04.25 03:56:46

Calling urgently on Syrian authorities and the opposition to allow aid access, end siege warfare and halt the indiscriminate bombing of civilians, the top United Nations humanitarian officials today also issued a strong challenge to "those with the responsibility, power and influence" to find the courage to re-energize a thus-far failed diplomatic push to end the brutal three-year conflict.



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admin
Geneva deal to be implemented 'in near-future'
2014.04.25 03:55:32

Russia expects that an international agreement to defuse the Ukraine crisis will be implemented in practical steps, the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov was quoted as saying on Thursday.

Russia, Ukraine, the US and the EU signed the deal in Geneva last week but each side has since accused the other of failing to carry it out.

"Russia expects that the Geneva accords will be implemented in practical actions in the near-future," Russian news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying. [Reuters]



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