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Humanitarian aid to Syria
2014.04.24 02:13:57

The directors of five United Nations agencies that provide humanitarian aid to Syria have said their appeal for $6.5 bn in emergency funding for 2014 has been mostly ignored.

With only $1.2 bn pledged, the agency heads are renewing their December appeal and emphasizing that the humanitarian situation is deteriorating by the day as the 3-year-old civil war escalates in many areas.

The December appeal "has gone largely unanswered" for a crisis affecting 9.3 million people, said a joint statement Wednesday by U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, UNICEF director Anthony Lake, UN refugee commissioner

António Guterres, World Food Program director Ertharin Cousin and World Health Organization director Dr. Margaret Chan.

They say "the worst days seem yet to come" for civilians remaining in Aleppo, Homs, and other areas with heavy fighting.

[AP]



Tags: Syria

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Sergey Lavrov- Russian foreign minister
2014.04.24 02:12:52

Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister has said some pretty powerful stuff on Ukraine in an interview with Russia Today. The video is to be broadcast tonight but excerpts of the transcript have been released early. He says:

Russia sees the US hand in a new Ukraine offensive against pro-Russian groups in eastern Ukraine.

There is no reason not to believe that the Americans are running the show.

Russia will respond if its interests are attacked.

If our legitimate interests, the interests of Russians, have been attacked directly, like they were in South Ossetia for example, I do not see any other way but to respond in accordance with international law.

South Ossetia is a reference to the Georgian war of 2008, when Russian troops invaded Georgia after Tblisi attempted to end separatist rebellions in two of its regions: Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

This last one is fairly significant. Raising the specter of the Georgian war in reference to Ukraine is particularly pointed.

Russian citizens being attacked is an attack against the Russian Federation.

Is Lavrov saying there are Russian citizens among the separatists in east Ukraine? Or that he considers those in the groups to be defacto Russian citizens? That statement's meaning is not entirely clear, even in the context of his other quotes. But it certainly sounds high-level dangerous.



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | Sergey Lavrov

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Kerry spoke with Egyptian Foreign Minister Fahmy
2014.04.24 01:48:18

US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Egyptian Foreign Minister Fahmy on Tuesday.

In a statement from US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, Kerry noted that "he is not yet able to certify that Egypt is taking steps to support a democratic transition" and urged Egypt to conduct "free, fair and transparent elections".

The elections are due to take place on May 26 and 27. Retired army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is widely expected to win the vote.



Tags: Egypt | United States | John Kerry

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Syrian Revolution General Commission
2014.04.24 01:46:34

According to Syrian Revolution General Commission, several fighter of Hezbollah has died and others injured as result of an attack by Free Syrian Army in Daraya , Damascus countryside.

The SRGC added that a 70m tunnel, was discovered by members of FSA on the north side of the city of Darya, it was used by the fighters of Hezbollah and regime forces soldiers to infiltrate the city and to bring weapons.

The regime forces shelled the northern area of the city with toxic substances, according to the SRGC, which resulted the poisoning of a number of people.



Tags: Syria | Hezbollah

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Ukrainian town councilor mobbed
2014.04.24 01:43:40

A Ukrainian town councilor was mobbed by a hostile, pro-Russian crowd hours before he was kidnapped, tortured and apparently murdered, a video shows.

The footage from Thursday on gorlovka.ua, posted to Youtube, shows angry scenes outside the town hall of Horlivka, between the separatist flashpoint cities of Donetsk and Slovyansk, as Volodymyr Rybak is manhandled by several men, among them a masked man in camouflage, while other people hurl abuse.

Rybak had tried to remove the flag of the separatist Donetsk Republic, the website said. "Over my dead body will you take down that flag," one man in plain clothes yells at Rybak as the politician tries to gain entry to the town hall.

After several minutes, Rybak appears able to walk away. Ukraine's Interior Ministry said he was seen being bundled into a car by masked men in camouflage later that day. His body was found on Saturday near Slovyansk.

He and another, unidentified, man appeared to have been tortured and dumped alive in a river to drown, police concluded.

[Reuters]



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Russian Foreign Minister
2014.04.23 08:12:49

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a telephone call with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday that Ukraine must take urgent steps to implement a deal aimed at defusing the Ukraine crisis, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Lavrov said orders for the army to be deployed in the crisis should be reversed, the Right Sector Ukrainian nationalist group should be disarmed, arrested activists in southeast Ukraine freed and constitutional reforms started, the ministry said.

The call was a US initiative and the two men agreed to maintain contact, it said.

[Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | United States | John Kerry | Sergey Lavrov

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Vice Magazine journalist
2014.04.23 08:11:38

Vice Magazine journalist Simon Ostrovsky has been reportedly "taken" by pro-Kremlin militia in the eastern town of Slavyansk.

Vice Magazine has stated that it is in contact with the US State Department and other government authorities to secure the safety of their colleague.



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Military operation against pro-Kremlin separatists
2014.04.23 08:10:45

Update: Ukraine's acting president has ordered a military operation against pro-Kremlin separatists in the east of the country after the body of a local politician from his own party was found showing signs of torture. To read more, click here.



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Chemical weapons watchdog
2014.04.23 08:08:51

The chemical weapons watchdog said Tuesday that Syria has handed over 86.5 percent of its arsenal as new claims emerged of an attack on a rebel bastion this month using an industrial chemical.

Under the terms of a US- and Russian-brokered deal which averted the threat of US military action last year, Syria faces a June 30 deadline to destroy its chemical stockpiles.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said a new consignment of chemicals was delivered Tuesday to the Syrian port of Latakia.

It raised "the overall portion of chemicals removed from Syria to 86.5 percent of the total", the Hague-based OPCW said in a statement.

The chemicals were immediately removed from the country in the 17th shipment since the operation began in October.

"This latest consignment (is) encouraging," said OPCW director general Ahmet Uzumcu.

We hope that the remaining two or three consignments are delivered quickly to permit destruction operations to get under way in time to meet the mid-year deadline for destroying Syria's chemical weapons.

[AFP]



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US deploying troops to Poland
2014.04.23 08:07:06

US is deploying approximately 600 troops to Poland and Baltic countries in a show of commitment to NATO allies amid tensions with Russia over the Ukraine, the Pentagon has said.

A company of 150 soldiers from the US army based in Italy will arrive Poland on Wednesday, and roughly 450 troops are due in Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia in the coming days. The deployments are part of a new series of exercises "scheduled to take place for the next few months and beyond," spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told a news conference.

-AFP



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | United States | Poland

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Aid reaches remote Tfail
2014.04.23 08:05:58

A Lebanese convoy of soldiers, clerics and Red Cross officials have delivered aid to a remote village near the Syrian border. The border hamlet of Tfail was bombed by Syrian government aircraft and blocked by Lebanese fighters.

The village's population has swelled in recent months after more than 7,000 Syrians, fleeing the fighting in the country's civil war, sought refuge in the area and surrounding hills. [AP]



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Ukraine's acting president
2014.04.23 08:05:07

Ukraine's acting president has ordered a military "anti-terrorism" operation against pro-Russian activists, after two "brutally tortured" bodies were discovered in the east. One of those killed was a kidnapped local councillor.

"I demand the resumption of effective counter-terrorism measures to protect Ukrainian citizens in the east from terrorism," Oleksandr Turchynov said, according to a statement from his other office as parliamentary speaker.

- Reuters



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Al Jazeera English journalists
2014.04.23 01:07:08

Three Al Jazeera English journalists have appeared in a court in Egypt for a sixth time, accused of spreading news and belonging to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

The trial of correspondent Peter Greste and producers Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, who have been in jail for more than three months, resumed on Tuesday.

Al Jazeera strongly rejects all the charges and calls for the immediate release of its staff.

To read the full story, click here.



Tags: Egypt | Al Jazeera

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Red Cross condemns violence in Aleppo
2014.04.23 01:03:48

The International Committee of the Red Cross has said it is appalled by the increase of violence in the northern city of Aleppo.

The hundreds of civilian casualties caused by the indiscriminate shelling of residential areas across Aleppo over the last two weeks are unacceptable.

- Boris Michel, head of the ICRC delegation in Syria

We urgently call on all parties to meet their obligations under international humanitarian law and spare not only civilians but also essential infrastructure such as water supply lines, power plants and medical facilities.

- Michel

[ICRC]



Tags: Syria

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Syria chlorine-attack
2014.04.23 00:59:59

The US has indications that a toxic chemical, probably chlorine, was used in Syria this month and is examining whether the Syrian government was responsible, according to the US State Department.

Jen Psaki, State Department spokesperson, said there were indications of the use of a toxic industrial chemical in the town of Kfar Zeita, a rebel held area in Hama province in Syria.

To read the full story, click here.



Tags: Syria | United States

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Ukrainian military surveillance plane hit
2014.04.23 00:55:37

A Ukrainian military surveillance plane has been hit and damaged by small arms fire while on a reconnaissance flight over rebel-held town of Slavyansk, the defense ministry said Tuesday.

The attack occurred just hours after US Vice President Biden left Kiev. The plane was landed safely and no crew members were hurt.

-AFP



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Biden warns Russia
2014.04.23 00:54:29

US Vice President Joe Biden warned Russia that "it's time to stop talking and start acting" if tensions are to be reduced.

Speaking at a news conference in Kiev on Tuesday, Biden called on Russia to "stop supporting men hiding behind masks, in unmarked uniforms, sowing unrest in Eastern Ukraine."

"No nation has the right to simply grab land from another nation - no nation has that right - and we will never recognize Russia's illegal occupation of Crimea, and neither will the world."

Standing with interim Ukrainian PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Biden has urged pro-separatists to vacate government buildings and checkpoints. Yatsenyuk also called for Russia to "stick to its international commitments and obligations" but was harsher in his characterization of the country. "They should not behave as gangsters in the modern century," he said.

Moscow rejected charges that it was behind the troubles in eastern Ukraine.

-AP



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | United States | Joe Biden

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Here's Biden
2014.04.23 00:38:22

We just celebrated Easter. It is supposed to be a season of peace, family, a time when we come together. But today there are some trying to pull Ukraine apart.

We do not recognize Russia's actions in Crimea.

You are in a struggle for the very future.

There has been a lot of talk of geopolitics. Here in Ukraine people know it is about something more fundamental: Unity, independence. Respect and dignity.

For months, Ukrainians braved cold and stood down snipers in the Maidan. All Ukrainians can agree on the core idea that government exist to serve the people. The people of the Ukraine should have the right to chose their own future.

I came here to Kiev to let everyone know that the US stands with you. The road ahead is difficult and you should know you will not walk this road alone. We will walk it with you.

The ongoing threat to sovereignty and integrity. Ukraine is and must remain one country. One united Ukraine. The US supports a strong united Ukraine with productive relationships with the east and the west.

No nation has the right to simply grab land from another nation. We will never recognize Russia's illegal occupation of Crimea, and neither will the world.

No nation should threaten its neighbor by massing troops on the border. We call on Russia to pull these forces back. We call on Russia to stop supporting men, hiding behind masks, sewing unrest in eastern Ukraine.

More provocation will lead to more cost and isolation.

We have heard a lot of talk from Russia, but it is now time for Russia to stop talking and start acting."

(He's talking about the Geneva deal)

We need to see these concrete steps without delay. We will not allow this to be an open-ended process.



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | United States | Joe Biden

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Homs could soon fall to government forces
2014.04.23 00:19:26

Syrian opposition fighters are making their last stand in Homs, as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad launch their harshest assault yet on the city.

Some of the opposition fighters have talked about surrendering, according to opposition activists.

"We expect Homs to fall," said an activist who used the name Thaer Khalidiya in an online interview with the AP news agency. "In the next few days, it could be under the regime's control."

The fight for Homs underscores Assad's determination to weaken the opposition fighters ahead of presidential elections that are set to take place on June 3.

[AP]



Tags: Syria

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German rapper killed in a suicide bombing
2014.04.23 00:18:24

A German former rapper who joined fighting in Syria has been killed in a suicide bombing carried out by rival fighters, rebel sources and a monitor said Tuesday.

Denis Mamadou Cuspert, who rapped under the name Deso Dogg but took on the name Abu Talha al-Almani in Syria, was reported to have been killed in a suicide attack on Sunday in an eastern province.

He was a member of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and was reportedly killed in a double suicide bombing carried out by Al-Nusra Front, a rival group that is Al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate.

Messages posted on Internet forums announced his death.

"The Islamic nation is bleeding with the news of the martyrdom of the jihadist fighter, brother Abu Talha al-Almani. May he be accepted by God," one message read.

"His death is the result of a suicide bombing carried out by the traitorous soldiers of (Nusra chief Abu Mohammed al-) Jolani against a house in which a number of ISIL brothers were staying," it added.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the suicide attack carried out on Sunday.

"Two members of Al-Nusra Front blew themselves up the day before yesterday, killing 16 ISIL fighters," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Abdel Rahman said a fighter known as Abu Talha was among those killed in the attack in Deir Ezzor province near the boundary with Hasakeh province.

[AFP]



Tags: Syria | Germany

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