Archive for February, 2014

The Ukrainian parliament has been active today. These are some of the issues that have emerged.

  • The attorney-general said that deaths during the last three month of protests will be investigated together as a case of ”mass murder”.
  • Oleksander Tuchynov, the speaker, will be acting president until elections are held on May 25.
  • The foreign minister, Leonid Kozhara, and the education minister, Dykmitro Tabachnyk have been sacked.
  • The president’s estate at Mezhyhirya has been nationalised.
  • 64 protesters have been freed from jail.

Source: Guardian


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Ukraine’s parliament has voted to remove President Viktor Yanukovich from office, hours after he abandoned his Kiev office to protesters and denounced what he described as a coup.

The impeachment, which was backed by 328 of the 447 deputies, argues that Yanukovich abused his powers.

The Ukrainian parliament, which decisively abandoned Yanukovich after loyalists defected, declared on Saturday the president constitutionally unable to carry out his duties and set an early election for May 25.

Deputies in the assembly stood, applauded and sang the national anthem.

Defiant president

In a television interview shortly beforehand, which the station said was conducted in the eastern city of Kharkiv, Yanukovich said he would not resign or leave the country, and called decisions by parliament “illegal”.

“The events witnessed by our country and the whole world are an example of a coup d’etat,” he said, comparing it to the rise of the Nazis to power in Germany in the 1930s.

He said he had come under fire. “My car was shot at. I am not afraid. I feel sorrow for my country,” he told UBR television.

Despite his defiance, the dismantling of his authority seemed all but complete with his cabinet promising a transition to a new government, the police declaring themselves behind the protesters and his jailed arch adversary Yulia Tymoshenko freed.

Tymoshenko freed

Tymoshenko was freed on Saturday from the hospital where she had been held under prison guard for most of the time since she was convicted in 2011.

The former prime minister waved to supporters from a car as she was driven out of the hospital in the northeastern city of Kharkiv, a Reuters photographer said.

“The dictatorship has fallen,” Tymoshenko said in a statement released on her official website.

“It fell thanks to those people who came out to defend themselves, their families and their country.”

Tymoshenko, 53, was jailed in 2011 for abuse of office over a gas deal with Russia but her supporters and Western leaders say her trial was politically motivated.

The release followed an earlier vote by parliament to free her.

‘With the people’

The newly-installed interior minister declared that the police now stood with demonstrators they had fought for days, when central Kiev became a war zone with 77 people killed.

The grounds of Yanukovich’s residence outside Kiev were also being guarded by “self-defence” militia of protesters.

Military and police leaders said they would not get involved in any internal conflict. The interior ministry responsible for the police said it served “exclusively the Ukrainian people and fully shared their strong desire for speedy change”.

“The organs of the Interior Ministry have crossed to the side of the protesters, the side of the people,” new Interior Minister Arsen Avakov told Ukraine’s Channel 5 TV.

Yanukovich, who enraged much of the population by turning away from the European Union to cultivate closer relations with Russia three months ago, made sweeping concessions in the deal brokered by European diplomats on Friday after days of pitched fighting in Kiev that saw police snipers gun down protesters.

But the deal, which called for early elections by the end of the year, was not enough to satisfy pro-Europe demonstrators on Independence Square, known as the Maidan, or “Euro-Maidan”, who want Yanukovich out immediately in the wake of the bloodletting.

On Saturday, the speaker of parliament, a Yanukovich loyalist, resigned and parliament elected Oleksander Turchynov, a close ally of Tymoshenko, as his replacement.

Regional challenge

Underscoring Ukraine’s regional divisions, leaders of Russian-speaking eastern provinces loyal to Yanukovich voted to challenge anti-Yanukovich steps by the central parliament.

Eastern regional bosses meeting in Kharkiv – the city where Yanukovich had apparently sought refuge – adopted a resolution saying parliament’s moves “in such circumstances cause doubts about their … legitimacy and legality.

“Until the constitutional order and lawfulness are restored … we have decided to take responsibility for safeguarding the constitutional order, legality, citizens’ rights and their security on our territories.”

Kharkiv Governor Mikhaylo Dobkin told the meeting: “We’re not preparing to break up the country. We want to preserve it.”

reblogged from: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2014/02/ukraine-parliament-ousts-president-yanukovich-2014222152035601620.html?

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The Ecuadorian government was negotiating a secret $1bn deal with a Chinese bank to drill for oil under the Yasuni national park in the Amazon while pursuing a high-profile scheme to keep the oil under the ground in return for international donations, according to a government document seen by the Guardian.

The proposed behind-the-scenes deal, which traded drilling access in exchange for Chinese lending for Ecuadorian government projects, will dismay green and human rights groups who had praised Ecuador for its pioneering Yasuni-ITT Initiative to protect the forest. Yasuni is one of the most biodiverse places in the world and home to indigenous peoples – some of whom are living in what Ecuador’s constitution calls “voluntary isolation”.

The initiative – which was abandoned by Ecuador’s government last year – is seen as a way to protect the Amazon, biodiversity and indigenous peoples’ territories, as well as combat climate change, break Ecuador’s dependency on oil and avoid causing the kind of social and environmental problems already caused by oil operations in the Ecuadorian rainforest.

“This raises serious doubts about whether the government was truly committed to keeping ITT oil in the ground,” said Atossa Soltani, from NGO Amazon Watch and a former ambassador for the initiative. “While we were promoting the Yasuni initiative to donors, the government was offering ITT’s crude to China.”

The document, titled China Development Bank Credit Proposal, bears the name of Ecuador’s Ministry of Economic Policy Co-ordination on every page. Under the heading Results of the 1st Negotiating Round: Preliminary agreements, which took place between 13-23 May 2009, it states: “Last minute clause: The Ecuadorian party has said it will do all it can to help PetroChina and Andes Petroleum explore ITT and Block 31.”

ITT refers to the Ishpingo, Tambococha and Tiputini oil fields – the first two under Yasuni, the last partially – and Block 31 is an oil concession immediately to the ITT’s west. PetroChina is a listed company controlled by China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), owned by the Chinese state, and Andes Petroleum is a joint venture between CNPC and another state-run Chinese firm.

Equador oil map

The objective of the Chinese negotiators was in part to “guarantee the supply of crude oil for PetroChina in the medium term”, while the Ecuadorian government wanted to “obtain access to a favourable line of credit to finance priority projects,” the document says.

The proposed deal was that the China Development Bank, would lend “no less than US$1bn in the first phase” to “Ecuador’s Ministry of Finance or an entity designated by Ecuador’s government”.

But while these negotiations were taking place, Ecuador was appealing to potential donors to support the Yasuni-ITT Initiative – a scheme that emerged from civil society and was adopted by president Rafael Correa’s government in 2007, with a trust set up in 2008 to collect donations.

The details have changed over time, but the fundamental concept is to forgo exploiting the millions of barrels of oil in the ITT fields – estimated to be 20% of Ecuador’s total oil deposits – in return for financial compensation.

In August last year Correa abandoned his government’s support for the initiative and announced he wanted oil operations to go ahead – triggering protests and other opposition in Ecuador and abroad, a government backlash, and fervent speculation about why it failed.

Correa laid most of the blame on the lack of donations – just over US$2m in the government trust and just under US$10m in another trust set up in 2010 and administered by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), despite an ultimate target of US$3.6bn.

However, others have pointed the finger at pressure from Ecuador’s oil sector and the country’s relationship with China, which has seen the former increasingly dependent on the latter for financing and Chinese companies’ obtaining a near monopoly on Ecuador’s oil and being linked to Yasuni in particular.

Correa himself has also been heavily criticised and accused of failing to convince potential donors he was serious about the initiative – especially given his refusal to abandon a “plan B” to exploit ITT and the fact that operations were permitted in Block 31 where deposits are so small that many see it as the first phase of an eventual move into ITT.

“The document shows that in 2009 Ecuador’s government negotiated with China to do all it could so Chinese oil companies can explore in ITT and Block 31, contradicting the Yasuni-ITT Initiative that was in effect at the time,” says Alexandra Almeida, from Ecuadorian NGO Acción Ecologica.

Last October it was agreed that donors to the UNDP trust could choose between having their donations returned or reinvested in other projects in Ecuador. To date, more than US$2m has been given back.

Ecuadorians who continue to support the Yasuni-ITT Initiative are aiming to force a referendum and must collect 600,000 signatures by 12 April – a move countered by the government, that wants its own referendum in favour of oil operations.

Rafael Correa’s office declined to comment.

Source: Guardian

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The phone hacking trial has heard details of an email sent by Rebekah Brooks in which she claims to have received advice from former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Mrs Brooks spoke to Mr Blair on the telephone and passed on what he said to James Murdoch, who was then News International executive chairman, the Old Bailey trial heard.

The email read:

“Only got ten minutes before I see Charlie for confiscation!

But I had an hour on the phone to Tony Blair.

He said:

1. Form an independent unit that has a outside junior council, ken macdonald, a great and good type, a serious forensic criminal barrister, internal counsel, proper fact checkers etc in it. Get them to investigate me and others and publish a hutton style report.

2. Publish part one of the report at same time as the police closes its inquiry and clear you and accept short comings and new solutions and process and part two when any trials are over.

3. Keep strong and definitely sleeping pills. Need to have clear heads and remember no rash short term solutions as they only give you long term headaches.

4. It will pass. Tough up.

5. He is available for you, KRM and me as an unofficial adviser but needs to be between us.

He is sending more notes later.”

Ken Macdonald, whom Mrs Brooks referred to in the email, is a former director of public prosecutions.

Mrs Brooks also said Tony Blair had urged her to set up a “Hutton style” inquiry. This was a reference to the inquiry into the death of government weapons adviser Dr David Kelly. Its report exonerated Mr Blair and other officials over flawed evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, including the so-called “dodgy dossier”.

Source BBC news

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I was watching a couple of those ‘Come Dine With Me’ things on the telly the other week. Quite disturbing really. Manners are something which I had mistakenly assumed adults displayed when invited to dine. How wrong I was.

As a child there where many things placed in front of me which after a taste or a sniff I really didn’t like. That made no difference to my parents, I had to eat most of it. I was allowed to leave a certain amount if it caused distress, but I had to try. And of course in a week’s time maybe it would show up on a plate in front of me again. No cooking food especially just for me, and why should others be deprived of a wide menu because I was fussy?

Some food I was finally able to finish, other items I never liked and still don’t to this day. But I learned to taste, try and persevere with things that someone had taken a lot of trouble to shop for, prepare and cook. That’s where old fashioned manners come into this.

Anyway back to those telly programmes. People have actually responded to surveys and begged to be on TV, so they can show off their cooking, personality or most likely a desperation for 30 minutes of fame. They read a menu written by the next host and you get..

    ‘Oh! pumpkin soup…don’t like pumpkin….that’s boring anyway….never eat soup. Won’t eat that tonight’. 

     Or  ‘Don’t like anything on here…..I can only eat gluten free food anyway!  Hope they do a special meal just for little me’

Etc, etc, etc…….What is the point, what is the bloody point!

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