Egypt Independent: World-Main news en Russia defiant in face of historic Western sanctions <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>A defiant Russia dismissed Wednesday unprecedented Western sanctions over Ukraine after Brussels and Washington unveiled the toughest punitive measures against the Kremlin since the Cold War.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The third round of US and EU sanctions aims to force Russia to change tack and halt its support of separatists in Ukraine by targeting its vital financial, arms and energy sectors.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But Russia&#39;s first deputy prime minister, Igor Shuvalov, made light of the restrictions, also designed to hit the oligarchs in Russian President Vladimir Putin&#39;s inner circle.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;And what about the sanctions? In for a penny, in for a pound,&quot; he quipped to journalists.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Financial institutions put on a brave face, saying their operations would not be affected, while a top official unleashed a diatribe against the administration of US President Barack Obama.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Obama will go down in history not as a peacemaker -- everyone has already forgotten about his Nobel Peace Prize -- but as a US president who started a new Cold War,&quot; Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the foreign affairs committee at the Russian parliament&#39;s lower house, said on Twitter.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>There was no immediate official reaction from Putin&#39;s office or the foreign ministry but Moscow has long insisted sanctions would merely bring Russia&#39;s society together and make its economy more self-reliant.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The stepped-up sanctions came as Moscow dismissed claims it was responsible for supplying the missile that downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, and fighting in Ukraine showed little sign of abating.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>They will notably make it tougher for Russian state-owned banks to access European financial markets, forcing their costs higher and hobbling an already struggling economy.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Russia&#39;s Central Bank said that financial institutions were working normally and that if necessary it would adopt measures to protect targeted lenders which include the country&#39;s second-largest bank VTB.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><b>&#39;Driven into corner&#39;</b></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Economists have warned that Europe&#39;s own economy would suffer too from the so-called sector sanctions against its biggest source of energy and its major trading partner.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Despite the dismissive talk in Moscow, a number of economists acknowledged the new restrictions would be painful to absorb for Russia, and could stoke social tensions as its economy is sliding towards a recession.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The current amount of corporate debt is 700 billion dollars, these debts should be refinanced,&quot; Igor Nikolayev, head of the FBK Strategic Analysis Institute, told AFP, pointing to a lack of cheap loans in Russia.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Nikolai Petrov of the Moscow-based Higher School of Economics said that this time the sanctions would be felt by everyday Russians -- and predicted they would drive an even greater wedge between him and the West.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The confrontation will increase abruptly. Putin has been practically driven into a corner and this man does not make concessions under pressure,&quot; he told AFP.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><b>&#39;Strong warning&#39;</b></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Some EU diplomats have also expressed concerns, warning sanctions may convince Putin that he no longer has anything to lose by further escalating the Ukraine conflict.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Obama denied the West was being drawn into a new Cold War with its former-Soviet foe, but warned that the United States and Europe are running out of patience with Putin&#39;s government.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He warned the new sanctions would hurt a Russian economy already stumbling towards zero growth, and said Washington had proof that Russian artillery had fired on Ukrainian forces.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Western powers were more determined to act together on the Ukraine crisis, Obama said, in the wake of the shooting down of flight MH17, allegedly by Russian-armed separatists.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>While the US targeted banks and United Shipbuilding Corporation, which builds attack submarines and surface warships, EU sanctions also banned future sales of weapons and dual-use technologies, especially in the key energy sector.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><b>Convoy to crash site</b></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>So far the EU has restricted its response to asset freezes and visa bans on those implicated in or profiting from the Ukraine crisis, and for the first time on Tuesday decided to add four close Putin business associates.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In Ukraine, a Dutch and Australian police contingent was for the fourth day running prevened from visiting the MH17 crash site, with monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) overseeing the mission only sending out a &quot;reconnaissance convoy&quot; to seek a safe ascess route.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The remains of some of the 298 victims, who included nearly 200 Dutch nationals, still lie at the site nearly two weeks on.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Fighting rumbled on not far from the wreckage of the downed jet as Ukraine&#39;s military said it was conducting a &quot;mopping up&quot; operation in the town of Ilovaysk, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) away.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The army said troops had also taken the town of Avdiyivka, a dozen kilometres to the north of the main rebel city of Donetsk.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Local officials said that morgues around the region had received 19 bodies in the past 24 hours and that shelling could be heard overnight around Donetsk.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Violence also raged around another insurgent stronghold, Lugansk, where local authorities reported one civilian killed and 10 people injured in clashes over the last 24 hours.</div> Wed, 30 Jul 2014 12:45:00 +0000 AFP 2437750 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/05/24/484151/putin.jpg Turkish court keeps police in custody on spying allegations <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>A Turkish court ordered that eight police officers be kept in custody on Friday pending a possible trial over accusations that they spied on Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his inner circle, media reports said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The investigation is widely seen as targeting a &quot;parallel structure&quot; within the state, a term coined by Erdogan to describe members of the police, judiciary and other institutions loyal to US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen. Erdogan accuses Gulen of being behind a plot to oust him.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Many of those detained are among the police officers who carried out a corruption probe centered on Erdogan&#39;s inner circle that became public last December. They say the latest investigation is politically motivated.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>State broadcaster TRT said the Istanbul court remanded eight officers in custody and released six others. Earlier prosecutors had ordered the release of eight other officers. They have yet to rule on the remaining detainees.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Relatives of the officers gathered at the courts of justice in central Istanbul for the ruling, applauding the release of some officers and protesting the formal arrest of the others, which came less than three weeks ahead of a presidential election in which Erdogan is standing.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Police on Tuesday detained dozens of police, including high-ranking officers, on a list of 115 whom chief Istanbul prosecutor Hadi Salihoglu ordered to be questioned over what he said was a concocted investigation of an alleged terrorist group.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The operation follows a stream of purges targeting the police, judiciary and state institutions this year which government critics have condemned as a symptom of Erdogan&#39;s tightening grip.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Concern about his autocratic style has been fueled by his intention to boost the powers of the presidency if he is elected, a plan he reiterated late on Monday.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The officers were accused of making up an investigation into an alleged terrorist group named &#39;selam-tevhid&#39; as a pretence to tap the phones of Erdogan, ministers and the head of the national intelligence agency.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The &#39;selam-tevhid&#39; case, targeting 251 people, had been dismissed due to a lack of evidence after a three-year investigation during which 2,280 people were wire-tapped.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Erdogan has signaled that the investigation of the &quot;parallel structure&quot; will widen. He accuses Gulen&#39;s Hizmet network of concocting the scandal by illegally tapping thousands of phones and leaking manipulated recordings on social media.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, denies plotting against the government.</div> Fri, 25 Jul 2014 21:48:00 +0000 Reuters 2437712 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/07/18/484151/erdogan.jpg Stalled Ukraine parliament says yet to receive PM's resignation <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>Ukraine&#39;s parliament said on Friday it had yet to receive a resignation letter from Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk so could not vote on whether to accept it, stalling work at the heart of government.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Yatseniuk, a key interlocutor of the West during much of the turmoil in the country since November, announced he was quitting on Thursday, saying parliament was betraying the people&#39;s demands for change by failing to pass legislation.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The move by an ally of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko could hamstring decision-making as Ukraine struggles to fund a war against pro-Russian rebels and deals with the aftermath of a passenger plane crash.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Oleksander Turchinov, speaker of the parliament, said Yatseniuk&#39;s letter of resignation had been sent from government but had yet to be received by parliament.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>An aide to President Petro Poroshenko, Oleksander Danilyuk, said the resignation should not hurt what Kiev calls its &quot;anti-terrorist operation&quot; against rebels in eastern Ukraine.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Artillery fire echoed around the rebel stronghold of Donetsk on Friday for the third day, as rebels fortified defenses and Ukrainian troops moved to squeeze them further.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Local health officials said 14 people had been killed in the last 24 hours In the Donetsk region.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Kiev said it had taken the town of Lysychansk, northwest of the second separatist bastion of Luhansk.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>A spokesman for Ukraine&#39;s Security Council said 13 soldiers had been killed in the last 24 hours, taking the total death toll to 325 since the start of fighting against the rebels who say they want independence for the Donbass region.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Personal animostities</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The usually mild-mannered Yatseniuk bellowed at lawmakers before tendering his resignation on Thursday, saying politicians had failed to pass laws to take control over an increasingly precarious energy situation and to increase army funding.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;History will not forgive us,&quot; he said, telling politicians they were at risk of losing the hearts and minds of Ukrainians who had protested for months in the &quot;Maidan&quot; demonstrations in favor of joining Europe and against a pro-Russian president.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He may also have been angered by a move by two other members of the parliamentary coalition to leave the ruling coalition, forcing new elections to a parliament that has kept the same make-up since before the toppling of Viktor Yanukovich.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Ukraine&#39;s complex political landscape has become a battlefield since the toppling of Yanukovich, with members of the pro-Western former opposition often unable to overcome personal animosities to present a united front.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Yatseniuk is a member of the Batkivshchyna party led by Tymoshenko, whom Poroshenko easily defeated in a presidential election in May despite her high hopes of finally taking the top position. She had been imprisoned under Yanukovich.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Some pro-Russian analysts have suggested that she is keen to undermine her rival Poroshenko, but others note her party&#39;s ratings have fallen since last year and its position as the biggest force in parliament could be weakened in any early election.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Ukraine&#39;s most popular political group is now the populist Radical Party, led by Oleh Lyashko.</div> Fri, 25 Jul 2014 13:40:00 +0000 Reuters 2437708 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/03/13/94/anti-putin_mps_in_ukraine.jpg French officials: Bad weather likely cause of fatal Air Algerie crash <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>Poor weather was the most likely cause of the crash of an Air Algerie flight in the West African state of Mali that killed all 116 people on board, French officials said on Friday.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Investigators at the scene of the crash in northern Mali concluded the airliner broke apart when it hit the ground, the officials said, suggesting this meant it was unlikely to have been the victim of an attack.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;French soldiers who are on the ground have started the first investigations. Sadly there are no survivors,&quot; French President Francois Hollande told reporters.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>A column of 100 soldiers and 30 vehicles from the French force stationed in the region arrived early on Friday morning to secure the crash site near the northern Mali town of Gossi and recover bodies, a Defence Ministry official said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Hollande said one of the black box flight recorders had already been recovered and would be analyzed quickly.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The plane&#39;s debris is concentrated in a small area, but it is too early to draw conclusions,&quot; Hollande said of the wreckage of the plane carrying 51 French nationals that crashed near the border with Burkina Faso, from where it had taken off.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The are theories, especially the weather, but I&#39;m not excluding any theory.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Aviation officials lost contact of flight AH5017 at around 0155 GMT on Thursday, less than an hour after taking off for Algeria, following a request by the pilot to change course due to bad weather.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The aircraft was destroyed at the moment it crashed,&quot; Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told RTL radio.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Another plane crash is likely to add to nerves over flying a week after a Malaysia Airlines plane was downed over Ukraine, and a TransAsia Airways plane crashed off Taiwan during a thunderstorm on Wednesday.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>International airlines also temporarily canceled flights into Tel Aviv this week, citing security concerns amid the instability in Gaza.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier said the strong smell of aircraft fuel at the crash site and the fact that the debris was scattered over a relatively small area also suggested the cause of the crash was linked to weather, a technical problem or a cumulation of such factors.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;We exclude - and have done so from the start - any ground strike,&quot; Cuvillier told France 2 television.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was due to visit the crash site later on Friday.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>France deployed troops to Mail last year to halt an al Qaeda-backed insurgency and has about 1,600 soldiers based in Mali predominantly in the northern city of Gao.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Other than the French nationals, Burkina Faso authorities said the passenger list included 27 Burkinabe, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, five Canadians, four Germans, two from Luxembourg, one Cameroonian, one Belgian, one Egyptian, one Ukranian, one Swiss, one Nigerian and one Malian.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Spanish private airline company Swiftair, which owned the plane, said the six crew were Spanish. It confirmed in a statement on Friday that the wreckage of the plane had been found in Mali without survivors, adding it was too early to talk about the causes of the accident.</div> Fri, 25 Jul 2014 12:56:00 +0000 Reuters 2437706 at sites/default/files/photo/2012/05/15/229/842065-01-02.jpg