Thursday, April 3, 2014

Aide to Greece's PM resigns over Samaras accusations

Panayiotis Baltakos in parliament in Athens, December 2013 Panayiotis Baltakos in parliament last year

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A top aide to Greek PM Antonis Samaras has resigned over a videotape in which he appears to accuse his boss of influencing a criminal investigation.
In the video, Panayiotis Baltakos is seen speaking to a spokesman for the far-right Golden Dawn party about the arrest of its leaders in September.
Golden Dawn accuses the conservative-led coalition government of persecuting it for political reasons.
A government minister rejected the accusation as a fantasy.
The latest developments are at the very least an embarrassment for the government but will also be seen as further evidence that Greece's judiciary is not independent and that the case against Golden Dawn is on shaky ground, the BBC's Mark Lowen reports from Athens.
Since coming to power at the head of a broad coalition government in June 2012, Mr Samaras has been credited with putting the debt-ridden eurozone country on the track to economic recovery.
It is now forecast to exit six years of recession this year, its deficit has been wiped out - save for interest on the bailout - and Athens is preparing a return to the markets for the first time since 2010.
'No evidence' At the last general election, in June 2012, Golden Dawn won 7% of the vote to 30% for Mr Samaras's New Democracy party.
Golden Dawn's spokesman, Ilias Kasidiaris, was among seven party MPs arrested in September, charged with being part of a criminal group.
Golden Dawn supporters in Athens, October 2013 Golden Dawn supporters in Athens last year
Mr Kasidiaris, who was subsequently released, was in parliament on Wednesday to challenge a move to lift immunity from prosecution for himself and a further four other Golden Dawn MPs.
In the event, all five MPs were stripped of their immunity. They may now be arrested or questioned on suspicion of being part of a criminal group.
Arguing his case that Golden Dawn was being victimised for political reasons, Mr Kasidiaris released the tape of his conversation with Mr Baltakos.
In the recording, Mr Baltakos can be heard saying that Golden Dawn's leaders were put in jail at the request of government ministers.
Mr Baltakos can also be heard saying that the authorities did not have evidence against Golden Dawn.
Announcing his resignation, Mr Baltakos issued an apology in which he said that his comments had only been intended to appease Golden Dawn officials who had accused him of conspiring against them.
Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias, who also figures in the conversation on the tape, said the accusations against the government were "figments of the sick imagination" of Mr Baltakos.
Justice Minister Haralambos Athanassiou also denied any effort to influence the investigation.
The crackdown on Golden Dawn in September followed the murder of a leftist rapper, Pavlos Fyssas, allegedly by a Golden Dawn member. Two members of the party were killed and a third wounded in a drive-by shooting outside the party's offices in an Athens suburb in November.
If the case against Golden Dawn's leaders were to collapse, the backlash against the government would be substantial and Golden Dawn's support would almost certainly soar yet further, our correspondent says.
Telegraph newspaper: The issue of Himara Region properties, is returning an International Matter

Communities of Himara in Diaspora, USA, Albania and Greece, is increasing the interest of the Himara Properties issue as an international matter, raising protests in State Department, in the Council of Europe and the European Commission

Tirana. The newspaper "Telegraph" of Tirana, has devoted the main article, a complaint of the Himara Community in USA, led U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Ambassador in Tirana Alex Arvizi, to intervene energetically near the Albanian government for the return of the all assets and property of the citizens with origin from Himara, with American citizenship.

The Himara Community simultaneously in Albania and Greece, organized the petition in social networking, run The Council of Europe and the European Union to resolve this property in the Himara Region.

Concern according to the Newspaper "The Telegraph" lies the fact that their properties are occupied by the offices of registration decisions and laws based Communist Law, No: 7501, which gives the right only 20% of the community to enjoy ownership.

Protests of the Himara Diaspora Communities, addressed a series of complaints against government Rama, who had promised during the electoral campaign return of properties to legitimate owners of Himara, but evidence suggests that the socialist government led by Edi Rama, making demagogy, is making otherwise, recognizing ownership by law no. 7501.

While waiting for the response from the U.S. embassy in Tirana, information say that Washington will send a prosecutor to investigate the properties of The Himara Region.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

NASA suspends cooperation with Russia over Ukraine crisis

Published time: April 02, 2014 20:19
Edited time: April 02, 2014 20:54
AFP Photo / Stan Honda
AFP Photo / Stan Honda
The United States has suspended contact between NASA and its Russian counterpart over the ongoing situation in Ukraine. Only ongoing International Space Station cooperation will continue through the freeze in relations.
NASA associate administrator Michael O’Brien said in a memo sent Wednesday that all missions with Russia’s Roscosmos are on hold indefinitely, UPI reports.

This suspension includes NASA travel to Russia and visits by Russian Government representatives to NASA facilities, bilateral meetings, email, and teleconferences or videoconferences,” O’Brien wrote. “At the present time, only operational International Space Station activities have been excepted.”
O’Brien added that “multilateral meetings held outside of Russia that may include Russian participation are not precluded under the present guidance.”
NASA told various US media that it will release a public statement later on Wednesday.
Three Russians, two Americans, and one Japanese astronaut are onboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Last week, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said he did not believe Russia would curtail American access to the ISS, despite geopolitical tensions. Russian launch vehicles have transported American astronauts to the station since NASA stopped its Space Shuttle program, though Bolden insisted that Russia is just as dependent on the US to run the ISS.
Despite Bolden’s assurances, some in Congress are worried that Ukraine-inspired animosity could affect NASA’s operations in space. Bolden attempted to leverage those concerns by asking Congress to fund development of the Commercial Carrier Program, according to UPI. The program, with adequate funding, could launch astronauts from the US by 2017.
"Right now, everything is normal in our relationship with the Russians," Bolden said in early March. "I think people lose track of the fact that we have occupied the International Space Station now for 13 consecutive years uninterrupted, and that has been through multiple international crises."This NASA image shows the International Space Station (AFP Photo / NASA)

Italian forces arrest Veneto separatists over alleged plot to attack Venice

Authorities release footage of 'tank' they say would have been deployed in St Mark's Square on eve of European elections
Home made tank seized from Veneto separatists
The home-made 'tank' – a modified tractor – seized from Veneto separatists in Italy. Photograph: AP
Italian special operations units have arrested 24 secessionists who were allegedly planning a violent campaign aimed at gaining independence for the wealthy north-eastern Veneto region.
Police said in a statement on Wednesday that the group had built an armoured vehicle that they intended to deploy in St Mark's Square in Venice – reminiscent of the seven-and-a-half-hour takeover of the piazza's famed bell tower by secessionists in 1997. TV footage revealed the "tank" to be a modified tractor that had been armed in some fashion.
Italian media reported the secessionists intended to deploy the vehicle on the eve of European parliamentary elections in May – a poll anticipated to express growing anti-Europe sentiment following the harsh austerity measures applied during the economic crisis.
Prosecutors allege the secessionists had planned a two-pronged approach of violence and consensus-building.
The crackdown comes days after politicians in Veneto started formal proceedings toward independence, despite constitutional prohibitions.
Veneto's regional governor, Luca Zaia, promoted an online survey that purportedly showed overwhelming support for secession. However the Venetian daily Corriere del Veneto this week reported that of the more than 2.6 million votes in favour of secession, most were generated by computers abroad.
One of the survey's organisers, Gianluca Busato, said the police crackdown was a "ridiculous" overreaction by the state. "We are peaceful democrats," Busato told Sky TG24. "We have the people on our side."
The Veneto region, centered on Venice, helped transform Italy into an industrial power in the 1960s and 1970s. The community of small, family-run businesses that had been the backbone of the region's success have been hit particularly hard by the economic crisis. Secessionist sentiment is rooted in anger that vast sums of money are appropriated by Rome in the form of taxes.
Reports claim that those arrested include two people involved in the 1997 St Mark's takeover, the founder of the secession-minded Liga Veneta and organisers of the so-called "Pitchfork Protests" that sprang up last December aimed at ousting the entire political class.
Police say they have seized numerous weapons in raids that were extended to secessionist movements in other regions, including Lombardy and Piedmont in the north and the island of Sardinia.

‘Cold war rhetoric’: Moscow blasts NATO move to stop cooperation

Published time: April 02, 2014 16:58
AFP Photo / Bernd Wustneck Germany out
AFP Photo / Bernd Wustneck Germany out
Neither NATO, nor Russia will benefit from suspended cooperation, the Russian Foreign Ministry has said. NATO’s announcement of freezing “all practical civilian and military” joint work is reminiscent of Cold War language, Moscow said.
“The decision taken by the foreign ministers in the NATO council to suspend civil and military cooperation with Russia creates a déjà vu effect,” the Foreign Ministry’s spokesman, Aleksandr Lukashevich, said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The language of the statement reminds one of the battle of words during the Cold War era,” he said.
Lukashevich added he felt history was repeating itself, recalling another “suspension” of cooperation with Russia announced by NATO six years ago, following the war in South Ossetia. The decision was short-lived, as several months later the alliance moved to resume the cooperation.
“It’s not hard to see who is going to benefit from curbing Russia and NATO’s joint work on countering modern threats and challenges to international and European security, in particular in areas like fighting terrorism, piracy, and natural and man-made disasters,” Lukashevich said. “In any case this is going to be neither Russia, nor NATO member-states.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed concern over NATO’s decision, in a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State John Kerry, according to a statement by the ministry. Lavrov said the alliance’s move did not contribute to solving the crisis in Ukraine.
“John Kerry has assured us of a strong intention to de-escalate rhetoric and continue to search for a joint approach to a political solution of the crisis in Ukraine,” the statement said.
“De-escalation of rhetoric” might be a tough task, as speculations on the “threat” of Russian forces on the border with Ukraine keep being voiced by Western powers and the media. The latest accusation has come from NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, US Air Force General Philip Breedlove, who has estimated that Russia could invade Ukraine in a matter of “days.”
The alliance’s military chiefs claim up to 40,000 Russian troops are stationed near the Ukrainian border.
“This is a very large, very capable and very ready force. The entire suite that would be required to successfully have an incursion into Ukraine should the decision be made,” Breedlove said in an interview with Reuters and The Wall Street Journal. “We think it is ready to go and we think it could accomplish its objectives in between 3 and 5 days if directed to make the actions.”
NATO Chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen backed Breedlove’s statement on Sunday. When asked if he thinks such claims are undiplomatic and only whip up tension, Rasmussen said “quite the contrary, it is General Breedlove’s duty to inform us what we see,” Itar-Tass quotes.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks during a joint press conference after a Foreign Affairs meeting at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels on April 1, 2014. (AFP Photo / John Thys)
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks during a joint press conference after a Foreign Affairs meeting at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels on April 1, 2014. (AFP Photo / John Thys)
The NATO chief then again called on Russia to “withdraw the troops.”
Russia has repeatedly denied any military build-up on the borders with Ukraine, citing international inspectors and even allowing a Ukrainian surveillance jet to fly over the territory. On Friday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that four probes in March by foreign missions in Russia found no “aggressive preparations” in the regions bordering Ukraine and “have not recorded any military activities, aside from the previously declared.”
The ministry emphasized Russia had nothing to hide and welcomed foreign inspections “who wished to get acquainted with the real situation in the border regions with Ukraine.”
In an interview on Saturday, Russia’s Foreign Minister insisted Moscow had no plans to send troops into Ukraine.
“We have absolutely no intentions of crossing Ukrainian borders,” Sergey Lavrov said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said on Monday that President Vladimir Putin “informed the chancellor about the partial withdrawal of Russian troops he had ordered from the eastern border of Ukraine.”
Despite that, Rasmussen claimed on Tuesday that he “cannot confirm that Russia is withdrawing its troops.”
NATO council ministers have ordered military planners to “develop as a matter of urgency a series of additional measures to reinforce NATO’s collective defenses,” alliance’s official told Reuters. This could include sending troops and equipment to NATO allies in Eastern Europe, holding more exercises, taking steps to ensure NATO’s rapid reaction force could deploy more quickly, and a review of NATO’s military plans.
This comes days after Rasmussen said that NATO is thinking about sending more troops to Eastern Europe, adding that NATO’s expansion in the region has been “one of the greatest success stories of our time” but the mission “is not yet complete.”
The head of Putin’s administration, Sergey Ivanov, said on Wednesday that Russia is concerned by the statements of NATO officials on strengthening their military presence in Eastern Europe, but stressed that there is so far no evidence the bloc is going to do that.
“We have some concerns, but we need to understand what kind of expansion it is and how much this is consistent with reality. It is because there are a lot of talks and a great flow of words, but often they do not represent real actions,” Ivanov said.

Crimea crisis poses a threat to tourism in Spain, Greece

April 2, 2014: 11:38Russia's annexation of the region has weakened the ruble and may mean fewer Russians visit southern Europe this summer.
By Ian Mount
The annexation of Crimea has led to Russia becoming an international pariah and weakened the ruble. It may also mean further economic woe for Spain and Greece.
The annexation of Crimea has led to Russia becoming an international pariah and weakened the ruble. It may also mean further economic woe for Spain and Greece.
FORTUNE -- You don't need a master's degree in international relations to understand why Russia's annexation of Crimea worries many Ukrainians. It's a little less obvious why it's so perturbing to Greek hoteliers and boutique owners on Spain's Costa Brava, but they have good reason to worry.
International condemnation of Russia's actions has hit the already weakening Russian ruble, driving it down 11% for the year in March to record lows against the U.S. dollar and euro. This, in turn, has made European summer vacations more expensive -- and less attractive -- to Russians, who in recent years have discovered a love for warm European beaches.
"The exchange rate is fundamental for tourism," said Ramón Estalella, CEO of the Spanish hotel trade association Confederación Española de Hoteles y Alojamientos Turísticos, or CEHAT. "If the ruble keeps devaluating, we'll have a problem," he noted.
This is an especially sensitive issue for the troubled economies in southern Europe, where tourism has been one of the few shining lights and where Russian tourists have been a driving force behind the boom. Almost 1.6 million Russians visited Spain in 2013, up 31.6% over 2012, according to the Spanish ministry of industry, energy, and tourism.

The Photos of the Day

"Great Chinese Wall" in Himara Region

"Great Chinese Wall" is being built, in the beautiful tourist area of Ionian Coast, Draleo of Himara Region, an area of ​​about 300 ha .. A construction company owned by Albanian from Kosoco, which has financial potential, with top media support and Albanian politicians, has taken permission for the construction of two tourist villages with 400 apartments, by the government and the Municipality of Himara.

On the other hand, Draleo, is involved in the covert of NATO, which are classified as areas that will be untouched by the Albanian government, but even that, in addition to the efforts of residents himariotas, to obtain their properties.


NATO targets, to build bases in Himara Region

Ionian coast of Dhrales, Gjipe, Porto Palermo Jala asked to freeze all the investments 

As long as human rights and civil liberties are violated in Himara Region primarily property, Greece to put veto on the status Candidate for Albania in EU

Himara Associations: Athens to block the status of Albania, if Tirana, does not solve the property issue

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Rama-Merkel: Optimism for status

Rama-Merkel: Optimism for status
The Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama, is attending a visit in Germany, one of the main European Union countries. During this visit which might be the most important for the first six months for Rama’s government, Germany presented a positive approach on Albania’s EU candidate status in June.

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, received the Albanian Prime Minister with an official ceremony and military honors in the German Chancellery.

The declarations of Rama and Merkel in a joint press conference focused mostly on the position that Germany will hold for Albania’s candidate status in June.

When asked by Top Channel if there will be a different treatment among Western Balkan countries, with Serbia being in the negotiation process while Albania has not received the status yet, Mrs.Merkel declared:

“We treat countries based on the European Commission reports. We will have a new report in June. The Commission will have recorded the progress of Albania and we will take a positive look to the report. We will decide with a positive look. The matter is not whether Albania will receive the status, but when. It depends on the reports that we receive”.

“Our country is in Europe and we will do everything possible to deserve the respect and place that Albanians aspire, with the help of Germany, with the help of the Chancellor and our European partners. And we will deliver by doing our tasks in a process that is not short. We are aware that integration is an extraordinary process for the modernization of Albania”, Rama declared.

Part of Rama’s discussion with Chancellor Merkel was the economic cooperation between the two countries. When asked if there will be more German investments in Albania, Merkel declared that German investors need a country where justice is more effective. Rama guaranteed that his government will do everything to attract foreign investments in Albania.

“The Prime Minister will meet with German investors. We will encourage them to invest in Albania. Legal security is very important for German investors and for private investors in general. They need trust in the judiciary, and that’s why we insist for more justice reforms. Not because we consider a well functioning judiciary as something beautiful, but we have many businesses in Germany which depend a lot from the fact that they want to invest their capital where they find better conditions. The sooner the judiciary is reformed, the bigger and the faster will be the interest of German investors for Albania”, Merkel declared.

“Our country is attractive and we will do everything possible for creating the conditions and attract more German investments in Albania. We see the German investments in Albania not only as an income resource, but also as an instrument for transforming the business culture and our working culture. For this reasons, we give them a double value. That’s why we will keep our contacts with the businesses here. We have planned to push these contacts forward”, Rama declared.

The influence of Rama’s visit in increasing the German investments is still to be seen. What is certain is that the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, will visit Albania within this year.

“If you ask me after one year, I would have been in Albania”, the German Chancellor declared.

NATO chief recommits to defending Eastern European, Baltic nations

Francois Lenoir/Reuters - Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia, left, listens to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen during a NATO-Ukraine foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday.
BRUSSELS — A reinvigorated NATO flexed old Cold War muscles Tuesday as the Atlantic alliance’s chief recommitted to defending Eastern European and Baltic nations rattled by Russia’s military moves and its annexation of Crimea.
At the opening of a two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance has not seen signs of Russian troop withdrawals along the Ukraine border, as Moscow has claimed. A senior U.S. State Department official had called Russia’s promised pullback a “gesture,” but a welcome one.
Read more

Crisis in Crimea? Officials say Yalta is ready for visitors.

Crisis in Crimea? Officials say Yalta is ready for visitors.
With tourism the backbone of the region’s economy, officials fear people will stay away from city.

Google Maps could side-step Crimea controversy

Google Maps could side-step Crimea controversy
We see one thing, but Russia could see another.

The bigger significance of Crimea adopting Moscow time

The bigger significance of Crimea adopting Moscow time
Clocks are a political issue in Russia.
“We have all challenged the tactics of intimidation,” Secretary of State John F. Kerry said after meeting Tuesday with NATO members and envoys from Ukraine.
The alliance moved to suspend many military and civilian ties with Russia over its military incursion and annexation of Crimea, but stopped short of ordering new troop deployments of its own that could provoke a larger confrontation.
“NATO has consistently worked for closer cooperation and trust with Russia” for two decades, the ministers said in a statement. “However, Russia has violated international law” and its agreements with NATO, they said. “It has gravely breached the trust upon which our cooperation must be based.”
Rasmussen did not rule out posting troops in nations at Russia’s front door in the future, something the alliance has largely refrained from doing so as not to antagonize Russia. NATO could establish permanent bases in front-line allied nations, alliance officials said this week.
Ukraine is not a member of the alliance but cooperates with it, to Russia’s frequent dismay. Ukraine’s foreign minister reiterated Tuesday that his nation is not seeing NATO membership now but is exploring greater cooperation with the alliance.
NATO foreign ministers agreed Tuesday to intensify the alliance partnership with Ukraine and to provide additional assets for Eastern European partners.
“Russia’s aggression against Ukraine challenges our vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace,” Rasmussen said. “We are now considering all options to enhance our collective defense, including an update and further development of defense plans, enhanced exercises and also appropriate deployment.”
The United States has joined Black Sea naval exercises while NATO members have increased air patrols over the Baltic states and sent AWACS surveillance planes aloft over Poland and Romania.
Eastern European leaders have expressed unhappiness with the pace at which NATO has sought to bulk up its presence on the front lines with Russia. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the results have been “unsatisfactory.”
“We are gaining something step by step, but the pace of NATO increasing its military presence for sure could be faster,” he said.
In Washington, the House was considering an aid package for Ukraine, whose new Western-oriented leaders have committed to economic and political reform and elections in May.
The 28-member alliance’s regular spring meeting of foreign ministers was energized by Russia’s move last month to invade and then annex Crimea from Ukraine, and to deploy as many as 40,000 troops along the Russia-Ukraine border.
NATO, originally formed as a U.S.-backed bulwark against the Soviet Union, has expanded over the past 15 years to include many former Soviet satellite states, often over Russian complaints. NATO sometimes invites Russia to attend sessions, but not this time.
“We will make clear that Russia’s actions are unacceptable. We will take decisions on which cooperation with Russia is still appropriate,” Rasmussen said. “Russia has undermined the principles on which our partnership is built and has breached its own international commitments. So we cannot go on doing business as usual.”
“Clearly we have a NATO that is now in the business, in the context of events in and around Ukraine, of rebalancing its mission,” a senior U.S. official said.
NATO has focused for the past two decades on joint missions, such as in Kosovo and Afghanistan. Without the organizing principle of collective defense against the Soviet Union, however, the alliance has sometimes seemed adrift. The United States has complained that it is funding a disproportionate share of NATO missions while European nations cut defense budgets.
Those missions are still important, the U.S. official said, but after the Russian show of force, “the alliance is now very much focused once again on its core and founding mission, which is defense of allied territory.”
The official spoke on condition of anonymity to describe U.S. objectives ahead of the meetings.
Rasmussen said Tuesday that allied intelligence does not show that Russia is scaling back what he called a “massive military buildup.”
The Russian Defense Ministry announced Monday that a motorized infantry battalion would return to its home base after deployment along the border with eastern Ukraine. A battalion can range in size from a few hundred to about 1,500 soldiers.
Russia has maintained that it is conducting legal, routine military training and has no intention of extending its reach beyond Crimea. But Ukrainian, U.S. and European officials have said the massing of troops is a form of intimidation against the government in Kiev and warned that an incursion could take place at any moment.
The United States and European allies consider Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region illegal and insist that it will never be recognized. Washington and the European Union have approved two rounds of relatively mild sanctions and are considering more far-reaching penalties on Russian oil and gas industries.
President Obama signed an executive order in March authorizing further sanctions if Russian forces enter Ukraine beyond Crimea.
On Tuesday, a 44 percent price increase went into effect on much of the natural gas sold to Ukraine’s Naftogaz by Russia’s monopoly Gazprom. That brought the price of natural gas sold to Ukraine in line, or slightly above, prevailing prices Gazprom charges other European customers.
“Ukraine will be unable to pay this higher rate without Western financing, which will heighten the prospect that Gazprom cuts some of Ukraine’s gas shipments,” said analysts at the Eurasia Group. Last month, Gazprom chief executive Alexey Miller said that Naftogaz was already $1.5 billion in arrears on its payments. Although warm weather and ample gas in storage will moderate the immediate effect on Ukraine’s economy, the higher gas price will be an extra burden next winter.
Former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich had negotiated a discount late last year; the new price is in line with prices Ukraine had been charged earlier.
A separate discount had been negotiated in 2010 as part of the so-called Kharkiv agreement to extend Russia’s lease of the Crimean port of Sevastopol for its Black Sea fleet. While Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that discount was no longer necessary, it is not subject to quarterly review like the other discount. Eurasia Group analyst Emily Stromquist said that legislation that would cancel the Crimean port lease – and cancel the Kharkiv agreement — is in Russia’s upper house for final approval, after which Russia could revoke that discount as well.

Steven Mufson contributed to this report.

Germany: Kosovo Albanian forces plane to land in Munich

A failed asylum seeker threatened an air stewardess with a razor blade, forcing a flight to return to Munich airport on Tuesday morning, reported.
Munich Airport - Photo: Takeaway / Wikipedia
Munich Airport – Photo: Takeaway / Wikipedia
The man, a 28-year-old originally from Kosovo, was expelled from Germany and was supposed to be flown to Hungary. BETA news agency reported that man is Kosovo Albanian.
He boarded the Lufthansa plane carrying 82 people from Munich to Budapest without a police escort.
But shortly after the plane took off he threatened the stewardess and the pilot decided to turn around and head back.
Police described the situation as “threatening”.
The plane was evacuated and one crew member sustained cuts on their hand.
Airport police said the man offered no resistance when he was arrested, reported.
 Russian helicopters based 50km from the border with Latvia causes 'headache'
Special Topics in Information Security and Defense

According to Russian press activates old Russian base in the city Остров («island"), which will be provided with at least 100  modern attack helicopters,   Ka-52 Alligator Attack Helicopter.
Specifically, in the border region between Russia and Latvia in the city Остров established airbase, which will be staffed with  newer  type helicopters in the world.

Russian military helicopters will be able to fly   within an hour to the capital of Latvia, Riga, and much more rapidly in the Latvian city of Daugavpils. This subject reported the television channel TV3, and the Russian radio      

Located 50 km from the Russian-Latvian  border in the Russian city Остров (island) which  was on a USSR  of the most powerful air bases in the region, have already delivered about 20 helicopters Ka-52 Alligator Attack Helicopter, which can be regarded as the most modern, fastest and most expensive in the world. recent years the base has been idle, but now to be activated by the Russian General Staff. It is officially   the  15th Russian air base, where in one with  two years will feature  100 modern attack helicopters

U.S. seeks to boost troops in Romania amid Crimea crisis

BUCHAREST Tue Apr 1, 2014 9:16am EDT

(Reuters) - The United States has asked to boost the number of troops and aircraft it has stationed at an airbase in NATO ally Romania, President Traian Basescu said on Tuesday, as tensions between the West and Russia simmer over neighboring Ukraine.
U.S. forces have used the Mihail Kogalniceanu air base on the Black Sea in eastern Romania since 1999. It is a major hub for U.S. troops leaving Afghanistan and is located not far from Ukraine's Crimea peninsula, annexed last month by Russia.
"The U.S. embassy in Bucharest has asked for support from Romanian authorities to expand current operations at the Mihail Kogalniceanu base," Basescu said in a letter of notification to the speaker of Romania's lower house of parliament.
The U.S. request would add up to 600 U.S. troops to the roughly 1,000 currently stationed in Romania and would also increase the number of military aircraft there, the letter said.
Foreign ministers from the 28-nation NATO alliance were meeting in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss ways to boost the security of member states in ex-communist eastern Europe after Russia's occupation and annexation of Crimea.
Former Director of NIS Albania

Fatos Klosi : Greek Church, more dangerous than the Albanian Islamist

Former chairman of the National Intelligence Service Fatos Klosi, in a newspaper interview in "Illyria Newspaper" in the U.S., spoke about the problem of Islamic extremism risk . He said the problem now is different than it was in the early 90s .

"Today the problem is much another! Other! The problem today seems to become more massive. More massive and is among the Albanians. And I say, that is far more dangerous situation! For these Albanians indoctrinated in this way, when the return of course" they are dangerous now... ...

Anyway, Klosi says that despite the problem of Islamic extremism is great, the Greek Church interventions are even more serious problem. "Another problem is all! Perhaps the most serious problem that the first intervention in the problems of the Greek Church,inside the Albanian Orthodox Church, but this has not been given due attention. No Service because the service has had this problem, namely chasing. But for me the problem is even more serious. Orthodox Church in general has been very strong support from the Greek government, which has not the Muslim community, which is supported by any state. So, given that the Church is behind Greece, given our problem not spoiled by the Greeks, for they are those who have the right of veto if NATO, or the European Union, Greece was considered, even has dared and said that our road to the European Union passes from Athens, which reminds us that the history of the former Belgrade.

Albanian state for me did not take this problem very seriously and has made many concessions to the Greek Church. More concessions ! Since the acceptance of Janullatos ( His Beatitude Anastasios Janullatos , Archbishop of Tirana , Durres and All Albania. Yrs ) , which normally had the full right not to accept.

There was no hurry to come here a priest, really very knowledgeable, very real, a true intellectual, who organized the Church of Albania. Let's organize a bit more slowly, but as you say, keep the look ... Today is unfortunately part of the Greek Church! All investments made ​​with funds coming from outside, from Greece. Investments are very important and show the money come from.

Whether for large buildings that have made ​​and are making more. If maintaining an institution that is not so small, huh ? We saw Përmet who were able to organize people. Why? Because, I said that Greece is always behind them. It is unfortunate that we are poorer than the Greeks and the nation itself has need immigration in Greece, there are people out there ... There are many factors associated with each other to give the Orthodox Church a position other than the Muslim Community. Is much poorer Muslim community, much divided, so there are groups that have "hand out", because it depends on where the money is Fluke et . Since the cash flows go toward these groups , the Muslim community will remain bad . Albanian state gives little things ended Klosi for the Illiria Newspaper.
Photo of the Day

The Himara Community in USA in ocassion of the Anniversary Day of the Greek independence in New York, together with Member of Greek Parliament Pyrros Dhimas

Were 30 Royal Marines poisoned by mustard gas on derelict Soviet weapons plant? Mystery as soldiers fall violently ill while training on island off Albania

  • Needed urgent medical attention while training Sazan Island, off Albania
  • Island used by Soviet scientists to develop deadly gases during Cold War
  • Marines described as 'in agony' with red and blistered arms and hands
At least 30 Royal Marines became violently ill on a training mission at an abandoned Soviet chemical weapons plant, where they believe they were exposed to mustard gas.
The crack troops needed urgent medical attention while on manoeuvres on Sazan Island, an uninhabited island just off the Albanian coast where Soviet scientists developed deadly gases during the Cold War.
One Marine said: ‘The guys were in agony, the skin on their hands  and arms went bright red then became blistered.
Sazan island off the Albanian coast is uninhabited. It was used to test poisonous gases during the Cold War. During a training trip on the island, 30 marines fell violently ill.
Sazan island off the Albanian coast is uninhabited. It was used to test poisonous gases during the Cold War. During a training trip on the island, 30 marines fell violently ill.

‘At least one Marine was gasping for breath when the atmosphere triggered a respiratory problem. We are sure it was mustard gas.
‘Medics treated the Marines. Even though they’ve recovered since the incident, they remain concerned for themselves and their families.
The Soviets developed some lethal chemicals on Sazan and the island has had no permanent population for 30 years – go figure, after what happened on this exercise.’
The Marines, from the UK’s elite Response Force Task Group, were struck down during an 11-hour ground assault on a mock enemy stronghold on Sazan.
The commandos cleared their way through a maze of tunnels and buildings that were previously occupied by Soviet soldiers as part of the annual Exercise Albanian Lion, which involves 3,000 personnel.
Marines (not those pictured) needed urgent medical attention while on manoeuvres on Sazan Island, just off the Albanian coast, where Soviet scientists developed deadly gases during the Cold War
Marines (not those pictured) needed urgent medical attention while on manoeuvres on Sazan Island, just off the Albanian coast, where Soviet scientists developed deadly gases during the Cold War

During the Cold War, Albania relied heavily on the Soviet Union and the island was used as a major strategic base in the Mediterranean.
Soviet troops built a submarine compound there, and a chemical and biological weapons plant, before withdrawing from Albania during the 1980s.
To this day the environmental damage caused by experiments there remains unclear. Soviet-era gas masks are still scattered across the island, which is three miles long and just under two miles wide.
Soviet-era gas masks (not those pictured) are still scattered across the island, which is three miles long and just under two miles wide
Soviet-era gas masks (not those pictured) are still scattered across the island, which is three miles long and just under two miles wide

Last night the Royal Navy insisted that an investigation into the incident last summer had concluded that the most probable cause of the Marines’ symptoms was not mustard gas but a poisonous plant.
The giant hogweed which grows wild on Sazan Island releases a toxic sap which can cause severe damage to the skin and blindness if any enters the eye.
A Navy spokesman said: ‘The health and welfare of our personnel are always our top priorities.
‘We are aware that a number of personnel reported short-term illness relating to training on Sazan Island but can confirm that no  personnel have reported any ongoing symptoms.  
‘Every effort has been taken to establish the cause of the illness which is thought most likely to be  a plant.’
The spokesman added: ‘No further Royal Marine exercise activity on Sazan Island is currently planned.’

Monday, March 31, 2014

Priština "declared independence legally" -U.S. embassy

BELGRADE -- "The Kosovo parliament declared the independence of Kosovo from Serbia in a legitimate democratic process under UN administration," says the U.S. embassy.
This happened "after all other options were exhausted," a statement added late last week.
The U.S. embassy in Serbia reacted after Tanjug asked for a comment on a recent statement by U.S. President Barack Obama that "an independence referendum" took place in Kosovo in 2008 - a claim that Russia said it found "astonishing."

Asked by Tanjug if they could comment on Obama’s recent statement that Kosovo broke away from Serbia only after a referendum was organized there in line with international law and in cooperation with the UN and its neighbors, the U.S. embassy said:

“The president was referring to the unique situation in Kosovo in which independence emerged from many years of exhaustive negotiations and engagement led by the international community. UN Security Council Resolution 1244 established a special legal regime for Kosovo under UN administration and provided for a political process for determining Kosovo’s future status, which included the possibility of independence."

"Unlike Crimea, in Kosovo there was a legitimate democratic process, under UN Administration, that included a free and fair vote to constitute a representative Kosovo parliament, which legally declared independence, after other options were exhausted," the embassy said.

On Wednesday, Obama gave a 40-minute speech in front of about 2,000 guests at the Center for Fine Arts in Brussels, accusing Russia of twisting facts concerning the Crimea issue when it said Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence was a precedent.

“NATO only intervened after the people of Kosovo were systematically brutalized and killed for years. Kosovo only left Serbia after a referendum was organized – not outside the boundaries of international law but in careful cooperation with the United Nations, and with Kosovo’s neighbors,” Obama said then.

“None of that even came close to happening in Crimea,” said the U.S. president, stating that Russia's leaders defend their actions claiming that Kosovo was a precedent and an example of Western interference in the internal matters of a small country.

The Serbian government’s Office for Kosovo stated in a release on Thursday that the unilateral declaration of independence was in fact done "during a meeting of the so-called assembly of Kosovo on February 17, 2008, and no referendum on it had been taken in the territory of Kosovo and Metohija prior to that."

A provisional UN administration was set up in KiM after the 1999 NATO air campaign against of Serbia, when Serbian forces left the southern Serbian province acting in compliance with a military agreement that was signed in Kumanovo and UN Security Council Resolution 1244.

Under the resolution, talks were supposed to be led on a highest level of autonomy for the southern Serbian province. Serbia insisted on this option but it has never even been considered.

On the contrary, under the UN interim administration and a tacit consent from the U.S. and leading Western countries, the ethnic Albanians gradually created their own institutions and eventually, on February 17, 2008, unilaterally and unconstitutionally declared the independence unrecognized by Serbia, Tanjug reported.

Kosovo dialogue resumes in Brussels

BRUSSELS, BELGRADE -- Prime ministers of Serbia and Kosovo, Ivica Dačić and Hashim Thaci, are meeting today with EU High Representative Catherine Ashton for a new round of dialogue.
(EU, file)
(EU, file)
Besides Dačić, the meeting is attended by Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić.
"The two sides will continue to work on the implementation of the April agreement and discuss the next steps regarding the normalization of relations," Ashton's office said ahead of the talks.

The topics are expected to include justice and establishment of the community of Serb municipalities, on which the two sides have not reached agreement.

Confirming that he was traveling to Brussels with Vučić, Dačić announced "serious discussions" on the subjects that the sides had so far failed to agree on, and on the implementation of what had been agreed.

"Preparations for parliamentary elections are beginning in Kosovo, which for us is a very important question - who has the right to vote, the question of how many deputies Serbs will have in the future the assembly, the issue of Serbs in the Kosovo authorities, the judiciary, the constitution of the community of Serb municipalities, and much more that will be discussed," he explained.

The minister without portfolio in charge of Kosovo in the technical government, Aleksandar Vulin, announced that changes in Kosovo's electoral law could also be discussed in Brussels.

"Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija said that reducing their rights was out of the question, it is something that I think the entire world supports, that the international community supports. I'm sure there will be time to talk about it in Brussels on Monday," said Vulin.

"The Brussels agreement is status neutral and that means voting with the relevant Serbian documents cannot be called into question, because anything else would be prejudicing the final solution," said Vulin.

The negotiators in Brussels today are also expected to discuss the jurisdiction of the Basic Court in Kosovska Mitrovica, which, according to Priština, should include seven municipalities, three of which are predominantly ethnic Albanian.

Belgrade believes that such a solution is not in the spirit of the Brussels agreement, as the ethnic structure of judges and prosecutors of such a court would be majority Albanian.

Another unresolved issue is the civil defense in northern Kosovo, which is under the control of local authorities, but which Priština seeks to fit into the Kosovo system under the auspices of the Kosovo Security Force.

According to reports, the Serbian side "resolutely opposes this idea, because the Kosovo government, as earlier reported by media, plans to transform the KSF into a future army of Kosovo."

The previous round of the dialogue was held on February 12 and focused on issues related to justice and the formation of the community of Serb municipalities.

Albania PM highlights NATO's role

TIRANA, March 31 (Xinhua) -- Addressing a ceremony marking the fifth anniversary of the Albanian membership in NATO Monday, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama spoke of the crucial role the organization played in regional stability.
"The gratitude that we express toward this organization is closely related to its essential role in the regional stability," he said.
According to him, being part of the European Atlantic alliance has "given Albania the opportunity to become part of the highest values of democracy, freedom, human rights, legal state and free market."
"It has also strengthened the importance of the Albanian politics, transforming it into an essential part of international decision-making state that contributes to the global security," Rama added.
The prime minister stated drafting a national security strategy and modernizing state policy were the top priorities of the government as it worked toward further European integration.
Karelin's death a new wave of anti-Greek propaganda in Albania

Kareli's last letter published

Kareli's last letter published
The Greek newspaper, “To Vima”, published the exclusive letter written by the Albanian prisoner, Ilia Kareli, also known in Albania as Kudret Kume. Kareli stabbed and killed a Greek prison guard after he was not allowed to meet his sick mother, and then he himself died from injuries inflicted by a severe beating.

In the letter he gave to the guardian before stabbing him three times, Kareli writes about what he considers injustice for unfairly losing several years of his life in prison, warning he is ready to take the life of who he considers responsible.

“You are keeping me in prison for so many years just for robbery, without killing anyone. Why didn’t you let me see my mother? You didn’t allow me to have a family. I have been in prison since 1997. Aren’t you satisfied with so many years from my life? I have served a life in prison and four other years working. I should not be punished this long for my mistakes. And yet, you keep me inside. Now I am obliged to take one life from you, since you have taken mine.”

“To Vima” published a picture of this letter which had the blood stains of the guardian who was killed by Kareli. After the interest shown by the Thessalonica Consul and after the reaction of the Albanian authorities, sources from the Greek Prosecution say they will not keep any sides and the truth will be revealed in details. According to the newspaper, the injuries found in the body of the 42-year-old Albanian prisoner were inflicted in two different times. He was firstly injured on his chest, and then he has received electroshock injuries, according to yet unconfirmed sources. It is unclear if most of the injuries were inflicted in the Malandrino prison, or in the Itea police precinct, where he stayed before being transferred at the Nigrita prison in Serres.

Kareli’s body arrived today in Fier, after Greek coroners declared that he had serious injuries in his chest and other parts of the body.

The Greek authorities sent his body to Albania, where Fier coroners made another autopsy of the body.

The report will be given by the Fier Prosecution, while his family retrieved the body for the funeral at the village where he was born.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Kerry, Lavrov seek deal on Ukraine crisis

Paris (AFP) - US Secretary of State John Kerry met his Russian counterpart Sunday hoping to ease global tensions over the Kremlin's annexation of Crimea and buildup of troops near Ukraine.
The latest bid to resolve the worst East-West standoff in the post-Cold War era comes after Russian leader Vladimir Putin called US President Barack Obama on Friday to discuss a diplomatic resolution.The two men met in the lavish residence of the Russian ambassador to France seeking to hammer out a plan to end the crisis sparked when Moscow sent troops into Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula after the pro-Kremlin regime in Kiev fell in February.
Despite a massive troop build-up on Ukraine's borders, Lavrov has insisted Moscow had "absolutely no intention and no interests in crossing the Ukrainian border".
But he called on Western powers Sunday to back a proposal for Ukraine's Russian-speaking regions to have greater powers in a "federal" and neutral Ukraine.
"If our Western partners are ready, then Russia, the United States and the European Union could form a support group on Ukraine," Lavrov told Russian state television.

This would lead to talks between "all Ukrainian political forces without exception, naturally excluding armed radicals," and would end in a new constitution allowing for a "federal structure" with greater regional autonomy, he said.
Moscow's plan would allow parts of Ukraine to declare Russian as a second official language and secure more independence from Kiev -- a move analysts view as a bid to weaken the authority of what is likely to be a permanent new pro-Western leadership.
However the Ukrainian foreign ministry called on Moscow to stop preaching to its western neighbour.
"We would like to urge Russia, before it presses its ultimatums on a sovereign and independent nation, to take note of the catastrophic state and complete powerlessness of its own ethnic minorities, including Ukrainians," it said in a statement.
- 'No single plan' -
A plan outlining how the situation could be resolved has gone through a number of modifications, with a Russian diplomatic source telling AFP that the two men were first to meet alone and then broaden their talks to include their advisors.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov insisted Saturday to the state-run RIA Novosti agency that "it is the United States that is responding to our proposals on Ukraine."
"We have differing views of the situation. Our discussions involve an exchange of ideas, but one cannot say that we have some sort of single approach."
Washington says Moscow put forward a plan on March 10 that has been substantially modified since, and on Monday in The Hague Kerry went "through each point that was made in the Russian proposal with ideas on how to proceed," the State Department official said.
The ideas "include the need for de-escalation, the disarmament of" pro-Kremlin militias in Ukraine and the need for international monitors.
They also include calls for direct dialogue between Russia and Ukraine, constitutional reform and the upcoming Ukrainian elections on May 25.
At the heart of the US initiative is a commitment by Russia to halt its military buildup near its ex-Soviet neighbour --- estimated by US and EU diplomats to have reached between 30,000 and 40,000 soldiers in recent days -- and to order its Crimean forces back to their bases.
- More autonomy -
Moscow has however so far rejected direct talks with the new, interim Kiev leaders under the auspices of either Washington or some international contact group.
Lavrov told Russian state television on Sunday that Kiev appears to be opposed to Moscow's solution.
Ukraine's interim Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya "said that our proposals are unacceptable because federalism contradicts the basic principles of his state," Lavrov said after they met for the first time last week in The Hague.
Russia further wants the constitution to proclaim Ukraine a neutral country that will never join forces with NATO -- membership which Kiev's interim leaders say they are not seeking now.
Meanwhile boxer turned opposition leader dropped Vitali Klitschko dropped out of the Ukrainian presidential elections and threw his weight behind business baron Petro Poroshenko.
The charismatic tycoon -- known at home as the "chocolate king" because of his vast Roshen sweets empire -- has a healthy lead in polls over former premier and 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution co-leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

8 killed in Turkey local election clashes – reports

Published time: March 30, 2014 11:52
Edited time: March 30, 2014 14:22
A Turkish woman casts her vote in Istanbul on March 30, 2014 as Turkey gears up for local elections ahead of a presidential vote in six months and parliamentary polls next year. (AFP Photo/Bulent Kilic)
A Turkish woman casts her vote in Istanbul on March 30, 2014 as Turkey gears up for local elections ahead of a presidential vote in six months and parliamentary polls next year. (AFP Photo/Bulent Kilic)
At least eight people have been killed in clashes between rival groups in Turkey’s municipal elections, media reports say. Tensions soared at the polls that will decide the distribution of power between the country’s two major parties.
Two people have been killed and nine more injured in the southern Turkish province of Hatay after a fight broke out between two rival candidates for village headman (muhtar), Hurriyet reports.
In the southeastern province of Sanliurfa, six people have been killed in a similar incident in Hilvan district and several more have been seriously injured, security sources said.
Al Arabiya reported that the incidents involved gunfire from both sides, supporting either candidates for Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan or his rival Fethullah Gulen. Whole families have reportedly been involved in some of the gun battles.

More than 52.6 million Turkish voters in villages, towns and cities are expected to head to the ballot box to elect muhtars (heads of villages), district and provincial mayors, and municipality assembly members. According to Hurriyet, some 3.5 million people went to their home areas from other regions to cast their votes. Hundreds of thousands moved from Turkey’s largest city of Istanbul, with intercity services having to sharply increase the number of buses to meet the demand.

Voter turnout is expected to be high amid tense political rivalry in Turkey. The previous 2009 local elections, won by Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), saw an 85.2 percent turnout.
Turkish authorities have taken extraordinary security measures at polling stations, summoning more than 15,000 police in Istanbul alone. Some 39,000 law enforcement officers will then oversee the counting of votes and their packaging and transferring in the city.

The exceptional security did not, however, prevent the controversial protest group Femen from going bare-chested in one of Istanbul’s conservative pro-Erdogan districts. Police detained two naked Femen activists who attempted to grab and throw away a number of ballots and had “Ban Erdogan” inscribed on their chests and backs.