Saturday, June 21, 2014

Putin orders surprise drills to check combat readiness of central Russia forces (VIDEO)

Published time: June 21, 2014 08:17
Edited time: June 21, 2014 12:14
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (RIA Novosti/Aleksey Nikolskyi)
All Russian forces in Siberia, the Urals and beyond have been put on combat-ready alert, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said after President Putin ordered surprise drills.
Russia’s troops in the Central Military District have been put on alert to verify troops’ combat-readiness during massive war games of all branches of the armed forces. The exercises involve the relocation of military personnel and hardware, firing training and complex inspections.
In accordance with president’s order, today starting from 11:00 Moscow time [07:00 GMT] all troops of the Central Military District have been placed in a state of full combat readiness," Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said at staff meeting.
The drills will last for a week, from June 21 through 28, Shoigu said.
Up to 65,000 troops, along with 5,500 military vehicles, 180 airplanes and 60 helicopters will participate in the drills, Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov said, Interfax reported.

Russia's military disctricts: Blue - West, Green - Center, Orange - East, Brown - South (Image from
Russia's military disctricts: Blue - West, Green - Center, Orange - East, Brown - South (Image from
During the first 24 hours, the troops’ readiness for immediate deployment on a combat mission will be checked.
After that, military units will switch to tactical training, marching in battle formation to firing ranges for practice, Shoigu said.
Air Force units in the district will relocate planes to operational airfields to check their readiness for action in new locations. In particular, the 98th Airborne Division will be relocated from the Ivanovo Region of the Volga Federal District to the Urals for paratrooper jump exercises at the Chebarkul firing range.
The minister specifically ordered units to avoid any possible damage to civilian installations and infrastructure during the military drills, and to ensure the safety of military personnel, arms and hardware.
The June 21-28 drill is the second stage of general exercises in the Central Military District, Shoigu said. A special commission has already verified the general situation in the district and now the war games will give the picture of combat readiness of the troops stationed on a swathe of huge territory from the Volga River through the Urals Mountains to Siberia, and from the Kara Sea in the Arctic to the steppe on Russia’s southern border with Kazakhstan.

Shoigu said that the 28th and 35th Motorized Brigades began the training June 20, when both units were put on alert ahead of the rest of the military forces in the region.
The Russian army has staged a number of military drills this year. The most recent exercises took place less than a fortnight ago, when on June 10 the Russian military launched drills by its assault forces in the enclave of Kaliningrad in answer to the double war games being conducted by joint NATO forces on the territory of the three Baltic States.

Ukraine's pro-Russian rebels reject ceasefire

Ukraine: Pro-Russian rebels reject ceasefire
(Vatican Radio) Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine have rejected a presidential offer to lay down their weapons for a week and free hostages as part of a peace plan.
Listen to Stefan Bos’ report:

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says the ceasefire will last till the morning of June 27, when he ironically signs the European Union association agreement.
Yet, Ukrainian soldiers will have the right to fire back when attacked by pro-Russian separatists.
Dressed in uniform, Poroshenko told his troops in eastern Ukraine that the coming seven days "will be a  short opportunity for those who fight the legitimate Ukrainian authorities to give up their arms and leave occupied buildings.”
He also launched a 15-point peace plan to end the fighting which already killed hundreds of people in the Russian speaking east.
Clashes erupted in April after the ouster of Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovych.
Yet the ink on the peace plan document was barely dry when pro-Russian rebels already rejected it.  Moscow is also reluctant to accept the proposal, explained Russia's United Nations ambassador Vitaly Churkin.
"He [Poroshenko] repeatedly said that the entire world has embraced this initiative [and that] also President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov have supported it. I double checked and I’m authorised to say that it is not true," Churkin told reporters.
"It’s premature to talk about our support for President Poroshenko's initiative, at least for the reason that we have not seen it yet, ” he added.
However for thousands of refugees a lasting ceasefire could not come soon enough. Among them are non-Orthodox Christians.
Ukrainian Greek Catholic Churches and priests as well as Protestant Christians have been targeted by pro-Russian rebels who view them as government supporters.
Mission group Russian Ministries told Vatican Radio that this week separatists, armed with machine guns, raided two churches, destroying offices and banning worship services in the town of Gorlovka. They already seized another Protestant church in the area in May.
Additionally, pro-Russian forces reportedly occupied a church-run rehabilitation center in the Donetsk region, where dozens of people underwent rehabilitation for drug and alcohol addiction.
Kyiv has accused Moscow of fuelling the unrest by supplying tanks or other equipment to rebels and sending thousands of troops to Ukraine's border, allegations Russia denies.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Albania hails police raid on cannabis-growing village

Albanian police officers display seized marijuana in the lawless village of Lazarat on 20 June 2014 Vast quantities of marijuana were discovered in the small village known as a "cannabis kingdom"

Related Stories

Albanian PM Edi Rama has praised a major anti-drug police operation in the southern village of Lazarat that netted more than 25 tonnes of marijuana.
Police say they have now brought the village under their control.
About 800 officers were engaged in the five-day operation, with many coming under fire from heavily-armed locals.
The small and prosperous village is believed to be Europe's biggest illegal producer of marijuana.
Lazarat, about 230km (140 miles) south of the capital Tirana, has been producing an estimated 900 tonnes of cannabis annually, worth 4.5bn euros ($6.1bn; £3.6bn) - equivalent to almost half of Albania's gross domestic product.
"State police destroyed the 20-year-old taboo of a crime zone that had declared itself a separate republic and turned it into a stamp of shame for Albania,'' Prime Minister Rama said on Friday.
Albanian police officers display seized marijuana plants in the lawless village of Lazarat, 230 kilometres (140 miles) south of capital Tirana on 20 June 2014 Rows and rows of marijuana plants were discovered in the village plantations
Albanian police officers display seized heavy guns in the lawless village of Lazarat on 20 June 2014 Dozens of heavy weapons were also seized
Albanian Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri meets police officers in Lazarat on 20 June 2014 Albanian Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri congratulated police officers on the success of the operation
The authorities said they had destroyed more than 25 tonnes of marijuana, more than 90,000 cannabis plants and four drug-processing laboratories during the operation in the village.
Police say at least six people were arrested, with dozens of automatic weapons and a large quantity of ammunition also seized.
Police said many of the gang leaders had escaped during the night, Reuters news agency reports.
Throughout the five days, police officers combed homes and gardens in a bid to rid the village of cannabis.
"The unbreakable, criminal Lazarat is no more," Sokol Bizhga, Albania's deputy police chief, told Reuters.
The operation comes as part of the new Socialist government's campaign to stamp out the marijuana economy in its bid to become part of the European Union.
Albania is Europe's leading cannabis producer despite efforts to clamp down by the authorities.
Albanian police officers seize considerable amounts of marijuana in  Lazarat on 20 June 2014 About 800 police officers took part in the anti-drug operation
Bags filled with seized cannabis are burned by Albania's police in Lazarat village on 19 June 2014 Sacks of confiscated cannabis were set alight by police

Serbian PM to meet with Putin and Medvedev

BELGRADE -- Serbia Prime Minister will travel to Moscow on July 7 and 8 and meet with Russia's president and prime minister, Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev.
(Beta, file)
(Beta, file)
This was the reason for Vučić's meeting on Friday with Russian Ambassador in Belgrade Aleksandr Chepurin.

The government said in a statement that Vučić and Chepurin "discussed all important political topics, and placed most stress on improved economic cooperation of interest to both countries."

According to the statement, they also also concluded that Vučić's upcoming meetings with Putin and Medvedev would "additionally contribute to the strengthening of friendly ties between the two nations and countries."

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Albania and Kosovo, joint transit in customs

Albania and Kosovo, joint transit in customs
Starting from today, businesses will not have to undergo procedures that last for days while crossing their goods in the Albania-Kosovo border.

The application of the joint transit makes it possible for transit goods to go from Albania to Kosovo customs by reducing the time of stay and cost.

“If a truck comes loaded on a ship from Durres to Kosovo, first they had to undergo a series of transit procedures. Now goods with come from the Durres customs or from anywhere in Albania and the procedure will not last for more than five minutes”, declared the General Customs Director, Elisa Spiropali.

Businesses will have a lower cost to circulate goods between Kosovo and Albania”, declared Lulzim Rafuna, Director of the Kosovo Customs.

Another problematic matter noted this summer is the long hours wait of Kosovo citizens who want to enter Albania.

“Queues in the Morina-Vermica border checkopints are not unusual, especially during summer. We are working to make procedures easier”, Spiropali declared.

The Customs Directors of Albania and Kosovo signed an agreement for building a joint terminal financed by the European Union delegation.

Albanian troops in Mali?

Albanian troops in Mali?
Albania is seeing the possibility to contribute with the European Union Mission in Mali, as part of the Armed Forces’ obligations for Albania’s European Union integration.

The news was made public by the Minister of Defense, Mimi Kodheli, during a meeting with her French counterpart in Paris this Tuesday. Both officials discussed the bilateral cooperation in defense, and underlined the need to make it more deep.

France is currently giving a big contribution in modernizing the Armed Forces and training the Albanian officers in French schools. There are joint Albanian-French missions in another African country, Chad.

The French Minister of Defense, Hean-Yves Le Drian, declared that France is following very closely the participation of the Albanian troops in Afghanistan, and that they welcome their contribution in other European Union missions.
Netherlands votes in favor of Albania’s candidate status

Netherlands votes in favor of Albania’s candidate status
The Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama, greeted the decision of Netherlands in real time during today’s Parliament session, as soon as he got the new that the Dutch Parliament decided to vote in favor of Albania’s candidate status.

The country that this December was more against a positive decision, confirmed this new position through their Foreign Minister, Frans Timmermans. He declared during the reporting of the Commission for European Matters that based on objective merits, Albania deserves the candidate status.

“Albania is still having problems with the organized crime and corruption, as underlined by Transparency International. But since December the government has taken steps that deserve a positive evaluation with our vote in favor of the status”, Timmermans declared in front of the Parliament Members.

“Prime Minister Rama attended a visit in Hague, and he has the highest compliments for the work done so far. He has undertaken important and very difficult steps to keep his promises”, Rute declared. The Head of the Dutch government answered to the questions about Albania, one of which was:

“Is there progress in Albania since December”?

“Yes, and there are numbers to prove it”.

What is the situation like in the European Union?

“The Commission and all member countries are in favor of the status. Not that I was fearing being alone, but I am also convinced that Albania deserves the status. I believe that the vote in favor of the status will be unanimous”.

Which is the trajectory towards the negotiations?

“It is a very long path and everyone is clear about this. The European Union is an organization capable of learning, and it has learned a lot from its enlargement history”.

What will the candidate status of Albania cost to the European Union?

“Nothing. The IPA funds remain in the same level. The status is just a political signal, without material consequences, based only on an objective evaluation. Albania deserves the status.”

The session about Albania concluded with a question if the candidate status will help Albania. The Dutch Foreign Minister quoted the Albanian Prime Minister during his visit in Netherlands, who promised that his government is determined to fight crime and corruption, to increase the revenues for the Albanian citizens and to give them an alternative.

“The Alternative is the European Union”, Rama had told to the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rute. He concluded the declaration by saying that Albania has a deep political antagonism, but everyone agrees for the European Union candidate status.

Thaci blasts "flower box barricade" in K. Mitrovica

PRIŠTINA -- Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has expressed "deep disappointment over the shameful act of placing of barricades on the bridge in (Kosovska) Mitrovica."
(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)
In a statement issued on Thursday, Thaci said he spoke on behalf of his government, and added:
"As the prime minister of this country, yesterday morning I welcomed the voluntary removal of a barricade that was done by the citizens of Serb nationality, hoping it was a sign of civic maturity. Unfortunately, it took only a few hours for me and Kosovo's citizens to be once again disappointed, by the disgraceful act of placing a barricade on the bridge on the River Ibar."

He urged local leaders in northern Kosovo "to demonstrate their will" and remove "the barricade."

"This a shameful and dangerous game, and above all an illegal game that is unacceptable to the social values ​​of our democratic state. Those responsible for these illegal acts will sooner or later face the law. Freedom of movement is a fundamental right and it should not be violated by anyone. Therefore, I urge local leaders of Serb nationality to show they respect that, and to remove the barricade. The disgrace that these roadblocks represent cannot be hidden behind flower boxes that are put in the wrong place," said Thaci.

"This disgrace will be removed only by removing the barricade," he said.

Thaci was referring to concrete flower boxes placed on Wednesday in middle of the main bridge in Kosovska Mitrovica, after a barricade that was there for three years was removed. Mayor of Northern Mitrovica Goran Rakić said that the idea was to create "a peace park" there.

KFOR welcomed the removal of the barricade on the bridge in Kosovska Mitrovica, which took place in the night between Tuesday and Wednesday, saying it was "a positive step that can be beneficial to reconciliation."

Only the determination of the people of Himara, may decide for its future fate

NGO`s of Himara and Omonia organization, decide to develop a Referendum, if the Albanian government refuses their Constitutional Rights

Communist Law 7501 for the land, considered civil disobedience
for all the Himara region

The Himara Community
Seacoast Association
"Omonia" Branch Himara
HRUP Branch Himara
Republican Party Branch Himara
Association of Women of Himaras
Businessman's Association of Himarians
Intellectuals Association of Himara


Dhermi, dated today, 19/06/2014, in the presence of a Himaras Civil Society groups and some political representation, call:

1. The Albanian Government and the Parliamentary Commission for the Territorial Division, to take into account the right of the people of Himara, to decide the unit of the Municipality of Himara with Lukove municipality.

2. The Announce of the Civil Disobedience, for the law approved by the Albanian Parliament in 1991 under Nr; 7501 for "The Distribution for Using of the agricultural land". The people of Himara, recognizes only properties inherited from grandparents based on Article 41 of the Albanian Constitution.

3. If  The Albanian Authorities will not be taken into consideration, the demand by the Albanian Constitution, the rights of the people of Himara to express his willingness to join with Lukovo, then the people of Himara, will decide the future through into a Referendum.

V.O. At the meeting, participants were representatives of the Swedish University of Gothenburg, who had shown interest to become acquainted with the Himara Region.

Dhermi, Himara 06/19/2014

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"At least 356 dead in Ukraine clashes so far"

MOSCOW -- At 365 persons, 257 of them civilians, have died since the beginning of military operations Ukrainian authorities launched in Lugansk and Donetsk.
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file) quoted United Nations data to report that 14 children are among the dead.
The report was prepared by the UN special commission in Ukraine and presented by Gianni Magazzeni, head of European Department of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, said the website.

The remaining 86 victims are the servicemen of Ukrainian army, including several dozen paratroopers and nine crew members of Ilyushin-76 who died in the recent plane crash not far from Lugansk airport.

Earlier on Wednesday Russia’s Investigative Committee presented its data on the conflict so far to say that "over 100 civilians have been killed, 200 injured and hundreds of homes destroyed in Kiev’s military campaign in eastern Ukraine."

The Investigative Committee intends to launch an investigation against the governor of Dnepropetrovsk, Igor Kolomoysky, and the Ukrainian interior minister, Arsen Avakov, RT reported.

According to the committee, "starting from April 12, Avakov and Kolomoysky organized and managed the military operation carried out by the Ukrainian military, the National Guard and Right Sector armed fighters, and the Dnepr special forces of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, created and financed by Kolomoysky."

The Ghosts of Religious Wars Past Are Rattling in Iraq

How the lessons of the European wars of the Reformation -- hundreds of years old -- can help stave off the lethal mix of religious radicalization and politics.

"I cannot and I will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen." —Martin Luther, reply to the Diet of Worms, April 1521
As Sunnis and Shiites tear their societies apart throughout parts of the Arab world, old ghosts are indeed rattling from the eastern Mediterranean and Levant to the northern Arabian Gulf. We watch with horror and near disbelief as radicalized elements on both sides of the Islamic faith take up arms in Iraq and Syria in increasingly vicious ways. But in the West, we have seen this play out before: in the Christian faith, during the wars of the Reformation.
From the early 1500s to the mid-1600s, Protestants and Catholics tore Europe apart, killing perhaps a third of the population in parts of Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium, with brutal casualty rates in many other parts of the continent and the British Isles. Coincidentally, this was the moment when Christianity was about 1,500 years old -- roughly the length of time since the founding of Islam to the present.
Then, as now, this was not purely religious fury at work. In Europe, Martin Luther's reforms spread rapidly across the continent, leading to the variously named wars of the period: the Eighty Years' War, the Thirty Years' War, the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, the French Wars of Religion, and several others. In England, the religious fanaticism was manifested first as King Henry VIII sought to break his marriage to the Catholic princess of Spain, Catherine of Aragon. The period's religious fervor collided with the Catholic Spanish Empire's desire to maintain domination in parts of central Europe.
In the Arab and Persian worlds today, geopolitics and economics are clearly at work as well. Iran seeks to dominate as much of the Middle East as it can, and it is willing to use the genie of Sunni versus Shiite to allow it a dominant voice in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. On the Sunni side, the Persian Gulf monarchies have incautiously supported radical Sunni groups, resulting in the germination of not only al Qaeda and its subsidiaries, but also the emergent Sunni terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).
As in the European wars of the Reformation, the potential for all this to spread is high, and the ability to extinguish it is low. That is a bad combination indeed.
The use of religious fury and internecine warfare, once permitted to take root and coupled to the energy and resources of geopolitics and economics, is difficult to stamp out.
The use of religious fury and internecine warfare, once permitted to take root and coupled to the energy and resources of geopolitics and economics, is difficult to stamp out. What can we do?
First, be involved. We must recognize this is a lethal mix indeed of religion and politics and do all that we can to stabilize the situation. Simply avoiding it will ultimately cause terrible effects in the United States and Europe as radicals come back. But at the same time recognize that fundamentally this is not our problem to solve. The ultimate solutions must come from within Islam and the region. This means working with the more moderate regimes and pushing for balance in the treatment of Sunni and Shiite.
In the case of Iraq specifically, we have to push Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government to build a more inclusive regime, stop the political prosecution of Sunni politicians, and lead the Shiite-dominated government back to working with the Sunni sheikhs. We have to provide material military assistance quickly, including intelligence, weapons, helicopters, ammunition, cyber-support, and perhaps Special Forces advisors. All of this and that may mean working with Iran -- strange bedfellows to be sure -- but perhaps there will be a grain of goodness in that as well.
Second, we should recognize that this is probably a long-term challenge. While we can hope to avoid another hundred years of wars à la the European Reformation with long and lingering effect, it is clear that this is not a single momentary challenge. The United States needs to play the long game here, meaning crafting a broad strategy for the region and for dealing with both the religious and geopolitical aspects of this challenge.
Another important aspect of this is to try to separate the geopolitics (Iran versus Saudi Arabia, for example) from the religious (Shiite versus Sunni). Doing so will be challenging, but creating common cause against vicious and totally radicalized groups like ISIS may make this easier. There may be creative openings with Iran in this regard in the immediate defense of Iraq's fragile government and polity.
A fourth approach is to point out and try to involve as positive role models and interlocutors the Islamic-majority nations that seem to be working reasonably well in finding geopolitical and religious balance, including Turkey and Indonesia. This should include encouraging religious leaders within Islam to speak out for tolerance, working with regional organizations (e.g., the Arab League), and engaging the United Nations.
Reformation can be a bloody business indeed, as history has shown with the Christian faith. Playwright and novelist Grant Morrison said, "Idealists and reformers all become executioners in their turn. The road to utopia ends with the steps of the scaffold, the endless moment of the guillotine." That rings unfortunately true in parts of the Islamic world at the moment.
The wars of the Reformation in Europe lasted more than a hundred years, and tragically, they sputter along in divided Northern Ireland today. It will require a deep effort within the Islamic world to head off the further violent politicization of this world faith, and leadership by men and women of good heart will be vital to breaking an emerging cycle of violence. We should do all we can to help.

Albanian police battle drugs gangs

Albania rushes police reinforcements to village controlled by marijuana-growing drug gangs, a day after a fierce battle involving machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades

Members of the Albanian special police and sniffer dogs search a tent in the village of Lazarat
Members of the Albanian special police and sniffer dogs search a tent in the village of Lazarat Photo: Arben Celi/ Reuters
Police reinforcements were on Tuesday rushed to a lawless Albanian village notorious for its production of billions of pounds' worth of marijuana following a fierce battle involving mortars, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
The battle erupted on Monday when hundreds of Albanian police backed by armoured vehicles tried to surround Lazarat, a village run by drugs gangs that had become a virtual no-go area for the forces of law and order in the two decades since Communist rule came to an end.
Remarkably, no one was hurt in the hours-long clash, despite the drug growers firing heavy machine guns, RPGs and even mortars at security forces.
But it came just days before the European Union's 28 member states decide whether to confirm Albania as a candidate to eventually join the bloc, amid concerns over the country's organised crime gangs and law and order issues.
Albanian police officers leave the village of Dervican near Lazarat, a village known as Europe's cannabis capital, south of the Albanian capital Tirana (Gent Shkullaku/ Getty)
Lazarat, a major marijuana-producing centre, lies about 130 miles south of the capital, Tirana.
Gangs based in and around the village of 5,000 people are believed to produce about 900 metric tons of cannabis a year, worth about 4.5 billion euros – roughly half of the small Balkan country's GDP.
Over the past few weeks, Albanian authorities have launched a nationwide operation to destroy the cannabis plantations.
Around 500 armed police surrounded the village on Monday after a smaller force was repelled over the weekend.
They exchanged fire with an estimated 30 armed men hiding in a four-storey building.
Some of the gunmen were eventually forced to flee Lazarat and headed for a nearby mountain.
But several hours later, sporadic gunfire was still heard in the village.
Saimir Tahiri, Albania's interior minister, urged the remaining gunmen in the village to disarm and surrender.
Albanian police forces surround the village of Lazarat, known as Europe's cannabis capital, south of the Albanian capital Tirana (Gent Shkullaku/ Getty)
"We are determined to walk the path of justice and rule of law," he said in Tirana. "I call upon those in Lazarat who have taken up arms against the police ... to drop their weapons and let the police do their job. Otherwise, the force of law will act like never before."
On Tuesday, the authorities announced they had sent hundreds more police to help subdue the village.
The Albanian police said they were increasing their numbers on the outskirts of Lazarat from 500 to 800 after sporadic shooting continued overnight, wounding a special forces police officer.
Authorities said six men were arrested on suspicion of participating in the shoot-out and of attacking a local television news crew.
Police destroyed around 11,000 cannabis plants up to three feet high and found sacks of dried marijuana ready for shipment, a statement said.
"State police are determined to reach their goal and mission to free the village from this criminal group which has terrorised it for years," the police said.
The village has been outside government control since the late 1990s and has grown into a drug dealers' fiefdom.
In 2004, shots were fired at an Italian drug-spotting helicopter, forcing it to withdraw from the area.
The Video of the Day

The Orthodox Archbishop of Albania Anastasios Janullatos, declares:

"Attacks against the Orthodox Church, is threatening seriously the harmonious co existence between religions in Albania"

For the first time in the history of his tenure at the head of the Orthodox Church of Albania, Archbishop Dr Anastasios Janullatos of Tirana, has issued a statement from Orthodox Cathedral of Tirana, about a real danger that religious co-existence is being threatened in Albania.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Bulgaria parliament postpone extraordinary sitting with few hours

17 June 2014 | 14:44 | FOCUS News Agency
Bulgaria parliament postpone extraordinary sitting with few hoursPicture: Focus Information Agency
Sofia. At the proposal of the oppositional Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (CEDB) the Bulgarian MPs decided to postpone with a couple of hours the start of today’s extraordinary sitting, FOCUS News Agency reporter said.
The sitting is re-scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. The delay comes in order to allow President Rosen Plevneliev attend the debates. National Assembly Chairperson Mihail Mikov will send an official invitation to the head of the state.
The MPs have only one item in today’s work agenda – debates on the proposal for organisation of a natural referendum on electoral reform, filed by the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, Rosen Plevneliev, as well as on the proposal for a national referendum filed by an Initiative Committee.

FOCUS News Agency recalls:
Proposal for calling a national referendum on the elections rules was filed by the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, Rosen Plevneliev, on January 29.
Back in January President Plevneliev released a special address to the nation and presented the questions he required to be put in a national referendum on the electoral law: “Bulgarian civil society showed unequivocally its willingness to be active participant in the decision making process. All politicians urge for making use of civil energy. Let us do it in the most democratic manner – through a referendum. Therefore, I will use my lawful right and propose the National Assembly to take a decision for holding a national referendum with the following three questions:
1. Do you agree for part of the lawmakers to be elected with majority election?
2. Do you support introduction of compulsory voting at elections and national referendums?
3. Do you support electronic voting at elections and referendums? ”
U.S. Embassy Tirana Statement

The US Embassy strongly supports Albanian law enforcement efforts to address the longstanding illegal cultivation of cannabis in the Lazarat area. We hope every precaution will be taken to avoid casualties and we call for perpetrators of criminal activities to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and punished accordingly. We also condemn the violence directed against law enforcement officials and journalists.
Himarioton Lobby of USA follows Himara Community in Albania for the union of Himara with Lukovo
HSA Supports Territorial Reform of Himarra - Lukovo

The Government of Albania is planning to undertake a comprehensive administrative and territorial reform ahead of the 2015 local elections for the purpose of empowering local governments, creating new opportunities for economic development, and promoting local democracy. Currently proposed by the Ministry of Domestic Affairs is the administrative merger of the Himarra municipality with that of Lukovo to the south and Vranisht, which is located across the mountains to the east. The Himarrioton Society of America supports the union of Himarra and Lukovo, but rejects the proposed inclusion of Vranisht in such an administrative territorial alignment for a variety of self evident reasons.  

Himarra and Lukovo have common interests related to geography (they are neighboring coastal areas) , tradition (they constitute the historic area of Himarra), economy (tourism oriented) and society. Vranisht on the other hand looks away from the coast, is agriculturally and pastorally oriented and has no shared traditions or historical societal ties with Himarra/Lukovo.  In our opinion, the inclusion of Vranisht in this administrative unit would only create the potential for conflict and disenfranchisement for the people of both Himarra/Lukovo and Vranisht. The majority of the population of Himarra and Lukovo are united in the rejection of any proposed alignment that would include the area of Vranisht. 

There has been a great deal of misinformation and mudslinging by some of the Albanian press and government officials, in attempts to dismiss the people of Himarra and Lukovo's objections. We wish to point out the Government's stated approach to this reform effort "through a participatory and transparent process building alliances consensus with the local community and all stakeholders. The process welcomes local solutions for voluntary mergers to ease decision making..and promote practical and realistic solutions." We hold the government to its word to seek realistic solutions, and urge it to consider the benefits it would reap in the economic sphere, goodwill and international public opinion that honoring the consensus of the people of Himarra/Lukovo would bring.  We believe the supporters of the territorial reform effort: SIDA, USAID, Swiss Development Corporation, UNDP, OSCE, et al, would agree.

Second US guided-missile destroyer arrives in Europe

Published time: June 17, 2014 03:51
The guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (Reuters/U.S. Navy/Tamekia L. Perdue)
The guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (Reuters/U.S. Navy/Tamekia L. Perdue)
The USS Ross, the second of four US Navy destroyers considered to be the cornerstone of NATO’s European missile defense shield, has arrived at the Spanish naval port of Rota. Russia considers the system to be a direct threat to its security.
The USS Ross joins the USS Donald Cook at Rota. The pair will be joined by two more Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, all of which are fitted with the Aegis weapon and radar system. The USS Porter and USS Carney will round out the quartet of the anti-missile vessels in the US 6th Fleet at Rota in southern Spain.
“On the global and regional stage, we are allies, and we share a common interest in maintaining a Europe that is safe, secure and prosperous. We work closely together with the NATO Alliance, with other partners across the region, and nation to nation as well,” said Vice Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of the US 6th Fleet, upon the arrival of the USS Ross.
The deployment of the four destroyers as part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach is a centerpiece of the European missile defense shield, which will also include interceptor batteries in Poland and Romania, radar in Turkey, and a command center at Ramstein in Germany, a US Air Force base.
The four destroyers will also take part in other maritime security operations, NATO deployments and training exercises, the US Defense Department has said.
The USS Donald Cook arrived at Rota in February, marking a major milestone for the missile defense project.
“For the first time, a ship of the United States Navy equipped with the Aegis ballistic missile-defense system is permanently based in Europe,” said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the time. “The arrival of the USS Donald Cook marks a step forward for NATO, for European security, and for transatlantic cooperation.”
The US military claims its interest in the Mediterranean has increased in recent years because of conflicts and instability across the Middle East and North Africa.
“Permanently forward deploying four ships in Rota will enable us to be in the right place, not just at the right time, but all the time,” US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in a Defense Department statement in January.
According to a NATO official statement, the system is designed to “protect all NATO European populations and territory.” Its advocates say it is necessary to protect Europe from the threat of Iranian missiles, as well as other so-called rogue states, such as North Korea.
Amid the escalation of the political crisis in Ukraine, NATO has been maintaining warships in the Black Sea region around the clock, with the USS Donald Cook taking its turn in the caravan of NATO ships conducting surveillance on Russian infrastructure.
Russia is considering the system to be a major threat to its own security and has threatened to increase its own arsenals and missile shield piercing capabilities in response. Thus far, all negotiations on joint participation in the defense system’s development have failed, while NATO has refused to provide any assurances that it won’t be used against Russia.
Meanwhile, a Los Angeles Times investigation revealed Sunday that a crucial defense system on the US west coast, designed to offer "an initial set of missile defense capabilities," according to then-President George W. Bush in 2002, has failed half of its staged tests conducted by the US Missile Defense Agency.
The $40 billion Ground-based Midcourse Defense system has actually performed worse in carefully-scripted tests – which require the system to intercept a mock enemy warhead – since such drills started in 1999, the LA Times reported.
"The system is not reliable," said a retired military official who served in the Obama and Bush administrations. "We took a system that was still in development – it was a prototype – and it was declared to be 'operational' for political reasons.”

Monday, June 16, 2014

Government against traffickers, gunfight in Lazarat

Government against traffickers, gunfight in Lazarat
The Police has advanced in Lazarat, while a group of persons have fired bullets against them.

After an extensive fire exchange at 14:00, the gunshots have increased while masked people with guns have appeared in the village, controlling the movements and vehicles.

Police listed 27 names that are led by Gate Mahmutaj, people who are firing against the police. Police armored cars and RENEA forces are advancing door to door, taking the situation under control.

The situation in Lazarat is tense, and shots are heard everywhere. According to the General Directory of Police, there are 500 forces in this operation for eliminating the narcotics that has just been planted there.

The Police announcement says that this group of people has been firing against the police, using even heavy weapons.

The police has published the list of the other people who have fired against the police officers.

One of these people has a criminal past. He was arrested by RENEA, sentenced by the Court but then pardoned by the President.

The Police structures are cooperating with the Prosecution. They have also requested help from the local government, and appealed the Lazarat residents to keep distance from this group of people, and give their contribution for catching them.

The General Police Directory says that the General Chief of Police has engaged all operational structures. There are 500 police officers on terrain who have surrounded the area. The Police declaration says that the state police is determined to realize their mission and to liberate the people of Lazarat from this group of criminals.

Battle against traffickers

Village under the terror of drug traffickers. Women and children evacuated. Negotiations fail. Top Channel’s crew enters the village. Journalist Kristina Fidhi and camera operator Ervis Balla witnessed the fire exchange.

The journalist says that the village was empty, while women and children were rushing to leave their homes. On the roads there were burned vehicles, including one of the A1 Report television.

Police has taken some of the depots used by the drug traffickers, while huge quantities of cannabis are being burned probably by traffickers themselves.

“It was an alarming and chaotic situation. Young people with masks and guns threatened the driver of the A1 Report when he tried to enter Lazarat”, declared journalist Kristina Fidhi.

“Both parties are in fighting positions. Police is waiting for the residents to hand over the guns, but they don’t seem to be willing to do so”, the journalist declared.

Tahiri: No one will help you if you fire against the police

While Lazarat is in a tense situation, the Minister of Interior, Saimir Tahiri, appeared in front of the cameras with the Albanian elite police, saying that the government has declared war to the mafia and crime.

Tahiri showed the drug and other instruments that were seized in the Fushe-Kuqe lab, and asked politicians to not be part of this crime and traffic. As for Lazarat, Tahiri threatened anyone who would fire the police that they would face the government’s force as never before.

“We are fighting the mafia and crime that in these 23 years has grown as a burden of the honest Albanian citizens, which is 99% of the population. After the police results, the least we should do is stay silent and let the law speak. When politics takes the side of crime, then I, personally, the Ministry of Interior, the State Police, the majority, the government and the Prime Minister will do everything to bring them to justice. Politics has the duty to take the side of the citizens, not that of the crime. They must support the state police and not encourage criminals. This is the only way to make all Albanians equal in front of the law. We are fighting against the representatives of the crime world, who should be today behind bars. But they are not, because they are corrupted judges, as criminal as these people, who have freed the criminals that the police is facing today. We will never stop. Justice has a proce and everyone will pay its price, may it be from the past, the present or the future. I appeal the people who have raised guns against the police that they have made a bad calculation. There is no God on earth who can help them if they go against the State Police. Throw your weapons now and let the police do their job, or the force of the law will act as never before”, the Interior Minister declared.

Rama: Why the Democratic Party is staying silent?

The Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama, asked the Democratic Party if they support the government’s police operation in Lazarat.

“Why the Democratic Party is not saying if they support the state police in Laarat”, Rama asked.

Police: Those who fired against the police must appear at the Precinct

The State Police has invited everyone who claim they were not present in the attack against the Police to appear at the closest police precinct.

“The Police has supported the residents of Lazarat, dividing them from the criminal part. The police has cooperated with the head of the local government in Lazarat, allowing him to negotiate with these people, but not only he didn’t convince them, but allowed them to flee the building surrounded by the police.”

U.S. wants "direct dialogue" with Iran on Iraq situation

NEW YORK -- The U.S. is preparing to launch direct dialogue with their long-time opponent Iran, focusing on security in Iraq, the Wall Street Journal has reported.
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
Citing unnamed U.S. officials, the newspaper stated that it is expected that the dialogue will begin this week, Reuters said.
American officials are quoted as saying that so far it is not certain which diplomatic channel the Obama administration plans to utilize.

According to the paper, one option is to go via Vienna, where American and Iranian officials should meet to discuss Tehran's controversial nuclear program.

The State Department announced that U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns would travel to Vienna to attend the talks.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said that Washington "must engage Iran in order to prevent the collapse of the government in Iraq, and should begin negotiations with Tehran."

Russian FM Lavrov starts two-day visit to Serbia

Belgrade, Moscow -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that he highly appreciates Serbia's position "in favor of uniting, instead of divisions in Europe."
Lavrov and Dačić at the airport on Monday (Tanjug)
Lavrov and Dačić at the airport on Monday (Tanjug)
The high ranking Russian official's plane touched down at Belgrade's Nikola Tesla airport at 15:30 CET on Monday, when he was welcomed by his Serbian counterpart Ivica Dačić.
Addressing reporters, Dačić stressed that Lavrov's two-day visit represented "yet another step in developing political relations between the two brotherly and friendly countries."

"The Russian Federation and Serbia have signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement, and we wish to develop our relations further in the spriting of friendship," Dačić, who also serves as Serbia's first deputy prime minister, said.

Lavrov's visit, he added, will be a chance to discuss "all issues of interest to bilateral relations between Serbia and Russia."

"The Serbian people and government welcome the chief of Russia's diplomacy, who is visiting Serbia again after three years, with great joy," Dačić stressed.

In his brief address to reporters, Lavrov stressed that he highly appreciated Serbia's position in favor of uniting instead of divisions in Europe, because, as he said, "Russia wants all countries of the EU and Eurasia to be in a common economic and humanitarian space."

Asked by a foreign reporter to comment on the situation in Ukraine, Lavrov sent the following message to authorities in Kiev:

"We have already said what we had to say, the Ukrainian leadership must end the violence and deal with the gas issue. All cards are on that side of the table."

Dačić and Lavrov lef the airport and headed to the Cemetery of the Liberators of Belgrade and at the Soviet War Memorial, where they placed wreathes.

They will hold a meeting on Tuesday, when the Plan of Consultations between the two foreign ministries for the period 2015-2016 will also be signed.

During his visit to Belgrade the Russian foreign minister will also have meetings with Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić and President Tomislav Nikolić.

Ahead of Lavrov's arrival, Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Chepurin told the daily Politika that "such important issues as South Stream, Ukraine, and Kosovo, will undoubtedly be considered" in meetings with top Serbian officials.

"The awkward statements of some Serbian actors regarding South Stream have created the false impression in the public opinion of Russia that Serbia, contrary to her own interests, was, of her own initiative, suspending the beginning of the pipeline's construction, that such a decision has been made," the ambassador remarked.

Stressing that he hoped the two statements of PM Aleksandar Vučić that followed had "mitigated that impression," Chepurun said the exchange of views with Lavrov "will certainly have a concrete and friendly character," as both sides are interested in the realization of the South Stream project .

According to him, the pipeline will employ thousands of highly qualified people in Serbia and enable the building transport and compressor stations, providing large transits and tax payments to the budget of the country.

"In my opinion, it is natural that countries that are interested in this project also demonstrate their interest, because it corresponds with the interests of the peoples of Europe", said the Russia ambassador.

Lavrov's meetings in Belgrade will particularly be focused on improving the political cooperation between the two countries in accordance with their strategic partnership declaration from May 24, 2013, official of the Russian Foreign Ministry Alexander Lukashevich said in Moscow.

Lavrov will also discuss international issues and the situation in the Balkans with the Serbian officials.

Economic cooperation will also be an important topic, Lukashevich noted.

Trade between Serbia and Russia in 2013 reached USD 2 billion, or 15 percent more than in 2012, and continues to increase, according to the data from the Russian customs.

Lavrov will also discuss South Stream with his Serbian colleagues, as well as a reconstruction of the Serbian railway system with the help of a USD 800 million loan from Russia.

The joint Russian and Serbia humanitarian center in Niš is operating well and it showed its potential during the recent floods in Serbia, Lukashevich remarked.

Russian rescue and humanitarian teams evacuated around 3,000 people from the flooded areas and delivered more than 100 tons of aid, according to Itar-Tass.

"Considering the close historical and spiritual ties between the two nations, Russia puts particular stress on the whole series of events marking the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I and the 70th anniversary of Belgrade's liberation in World War II," Lukashevich concluded.

‘Oligarchs comprising Ukrainian govt pursue only their own interests’

Published time: June 16, 2014 14:03
This handout photo taken and released on June 16, 2014 by the Ukrainian Prime Minister press-service shows Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk (R) and Ukrainian Minister of Energy and Coal Industry Yuriy Prodan (AFP Photo / Andrew Kravchenko)
This handout photo taken and released on June 16, 2014 by the Ukrainian Prime Minister press-service shows Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk (R) and Ukrainian Minister of Energy and Coal Industry Yuriy Prodan (AFP Photo / Andrew Kravchenko)
The new Kiev officials are thinking only about themselves, they do not think their behavior and demands are creating a serious dampening problem for European economies, Anna Van Densky, political commentator from the EU Reporter Magazine, told RT.
If Ukraine is interested to integrate into the European Union, they have to consider the interests of the others and that is the principle of solidarity. They shouldn’t only take something for themselves, and that’s, unfortunately, is very short-sighted policy of the oligarchs because as you know there is now a government of southern oligarchs and they are pursuing their interests in their usual way,” Anna Van Densky said.
She also stressed that such a policy has a negative impact on European economies, damaging European businesses and putting them into a situation when there is no other option for them but to leave Europe.
This debate damages European economies beyond imaginable because our businesses realize that gas supplies to Europe are not secure and you can’t keep businesses by order in Europe,” Van Densky told RT.
Business New Europe editor Ben Aris also blames Ukraine for the emerging problem of insecurity of European gas supplies.
The problem here with insecurity of Russian gas supplies is not Russia, it’s the fact that it has to go through Ukraine. And Ukraine has been more or less bankrupt; it is unable to pay for its gas. So when it needs gas it simply siphons gas that is headed to the West,” Aris told RT.
Aris argues that even during Cold War times the Soviet Union fulfilled its obligation to supply gas to Europe, so there wouldn’t be any disruptions in supplies to Western Europe. The only question is “whether Ukraine would simply send this gas and not take it for itself”.

A picture shows an employee walking on gas metering station "Uzhgorod" near the Chaslivci village, not far from western Ukrainian city of Uzhgorod. (AFP Photo / Alexander Zobin)
A picture shows an employee walking on gas metering station "Uzhgorod" near the Chaslivci village, not far from western Ukrainian city of Uzhgorod. (AFP Photo / Alexander Zobin)
Both Van Densky and Aris consider Ukrainian dependency on Russian energy is a fault of Ukraine itself, which, in fact, has its own natural resources. Ben Aris calls Ukraine “the most wasteful user of energy in all of Europe”.
It [Ukraine] has some domestic gas resources; it already produces something around 20,000 billion cubic meters a year. Put that against the 50,000 it needs all together. And it could develop shale deposits in two significant basins. But this is the point, as the last decade and a half has been totally wasted that neither the Orange government nor the Blue government have done anything in the way of reforming gas to make energy use more efficient, nor has it done anything to develop resources that it has at home,” Aris explains.
Anna Van Densky in her turn emphasizes that Ukraine have the same structural problems that emerged just after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and it doesn’t want to switch the model of partnership with Russia in terms of gas supplies.
The Ukrainians would like to continue to have a communistic relationship with Russia in terms of receiving gas. They don’t want to accept the capitalistic basis of the new arrangement, so they do not want to pay for gas, that creates the problem,” she said.
Van Densky suggests that Europe should reconsider its policy towards Ukraine, in particular, to demand Ukraine be more cooperative and to think about the options for Ukraine to make it eligible to pay its debts.
They have to consider a system of direct payments to Gazprom, as they do for example in the case of our conflict between Israel and Palestine because they pay the bills of Palestinians directly to Israel. That might be a short-term solution to reconstruct the situation and to avoid damages to European economies,” she added.