Saturday, July 5, 2014

Albanians riot over verdict in quintuple murder case

SKOPJE -- A protest was held in Skopje on Friday in front of a court after six ethnic Albanians were sentenced to life in prison earlier in the week.
(Image made from video)
(Image made from video)
The group was found guilty of murdering five Macedonian men in April 2012, just before Orthodox Easter.
The local media are reporting today that thousands of mostly young Albanians gathered for the protest, and threw rocks at the police, who responded with stun grenades, tear gas, and water canons.

The protesters were carrying Albanian flags with Islamic markings, and beside chanting "UCK" - the Albanian language acronym for the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA - they were also shouting "Allahu Akbar."

The demonstration was called via social networks, and is reportedly organized by human rights activists and family members of those convicted for the brutal killing of the five men.

The invitation to the protest was circulated on the internet, specifying that the gathering would be held after Friday prayers in mosques, and added:

"We organize a protest against staged trials, injustice, unpunished murders, mistreatment of families, ethnic and religious hatred. People, this is not merely a protest, it is a national duty. Unless we intervene today when injustice has reached its peak, let the seed of the cowards be erased."

The text added that the protest was supported by "many associations and societies for human rights, Albanian organizations, and public figures."

NATO holds reduced Black Sea naval exercises without Ukraine

Published time: July 04, 2014 08:02
ITS Aviere F583 (Image from
ITS Aviere F583 (Image from
Four NATO warships are in the Black Sea for annual Sea Breeze military drills with regional navies, but this year the number of participants has fallen significantly due to the civil war in Ukraine, which hosted the exercises in previous years.
The ships form NATO’s rotational Mine Counter-Measures Group TWO (SNMCMG2) formation led by Italian Navy captain Giovanni Piegaja.
The group’s flagship is an Italian Navy frigate, the ITS Aviere, accompanied by another Italian battleship ITS Rimini, Turkish TCG Akçay and British HMS Chiddingfold.
The task force is expected to be beefed up by American and Greek warships. The US has also provided a patrol warplane.
Last year the number of participants was much greater. It included Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine and the US, with France, Germany, Libya, Lithuania, Qatar, and UAE sending observers.
The group’s mission in the Black Sea consists of organizing training with Bulgarian and Romanian navies. The force is set to call at the Bulgarian port of Burgas on July 4 for the first stage of the Exercise BREEZE drill this year led by the Bulgarian Navy.
Later the force will move to Romanian waters for additional joint training.
The main objective of the exercise is to improve collaboration of the naval forces of different NATO member states. Bulgarian Naval Forces’ staff will be certified for independent operations planning conformity, according to NATO criteria.
“During SNMCMG2’s deployment in the Black Sea, we look forward to working with international partners in Exercise BREEZE to improve our operational and tactical capacity and interoperability in a multi-threat environment,” NATO’s website cited Capt. Piegaja as saying.
“Our deployment is a clear demonstration of our commitment to the Alliance’s strong solidarity and collective defense,” he said.

Captain Giovanni Piegaja (Photo from
Captain Giovanni Piegaja (Photo from
Italy assumed the command of the SNMCMG2 group on June 19 in Catania, Sicily. Since then the group has patrolled the Mediterranean Sea and conducted mine counter-measures and force integration training, as part of NATO’s counter-terrorism Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR, NATO’s website says.
The Sea Breeze naval drills in the Black Sea have been conducted annually since 1997 with Ukraine hosting the exercise in the Crimea peninsula and waters around it.
Due to the Republic of Crimea reuniting with Russia earlier this year, Ukraine has relinquished the right to host the exercise, which was redeployed to the western sector of the Black Sea.
The bloody turbulent developments in Ukraine, where troops and private armies are trying to force into submission the eastern regions demanding federalization of the country, have put the whole region on alert. Both NATO and Russia have conducted a number of military drills close to Ukrainian borders.
The extensive naval activity by NATO in the Black Sea against the background of the Ukrainian crisis shows an unfriendly attitude toward Russia and remains a “direct threat” to Russia’s national security, Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of National Defense Magazine, told RIA Novosti news agency.
“NATO’s electronic reconnaissance vessels are effectively present in the Black Sea on a permanent basis,” Korotchenko said, adding that the visits of Aegis-enabled US missile cruisers in the region next to the Crimea Peninsula were another serious challenge to Russia.
Korotchenko expressed confidence that Russia’s Black Sea fleet was closely following all movements of NATO naval forces in the region, and was ready to respond promptly and effectively to any threatening situation.
“Crimea was, is and will remain an indispensable part of Russia and no military blackmail or threats could change the principal position Russia has taken over the issue,” Korotchenko said. He also called for the urgent modernization of the Black Sea fleet and coastal military infrastructure.
Russia always opposed the Sea Breeze drills conducted in the imminent vicinity to its major Black Sea naval base in Sevastopol. Because of historic reunification of the Crimea Peninsula, where the city of Sevastopol is situated, with Russia in March this year, the harbor of Sevastopol has been permanently closed to NATO ships
Albanians protest once again in Skopje

Albanians protest once again in Skopje
Another protest had been announced in Skopje this Saturday for the trial against the Albanian suspects for the murder of some Macedonians.

Around 50 young men have closed the road for the Cair commune and some of them clashed with the police, which responded with tear gas.

The protesters have not allowed journalists to film, while the past night went without any incident.

The Interior Ministry did not publish any data about the number of protests, but they said that 20 police officers were injured and 16 protesters were arrested.

Political figures reacted today, with the Albanian political party that is part of the governing coalition, BDI, appealing for calm.

BDI expressed their concern about yesterday’s events and appealed calm, saying that violence interrupts the commitment of this party to find the truth of this case.

The PDSH accused the former Minister of Justice, Blerim Bexheti, and blamed BDI leader for the situation.

The Skopje Court sentenced six Albanian young men for the murder of five young Albanian Macedonians.

Donetsk militia confirm leaving stronghold cities of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk

Published time: July 05, 2014 08:35
Edited time: July 05, 2014 17:57
A hand out picture taken on June 3, 2014 and released by the Prime Minister Press Service displays an  APC of the Ukrainian forces moving some 20 km from the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk. (AFP Photo)
A hand out picture taken on June 3, 2014 and released by the Prime Minister Press Service displays an APC of the Ukrainian forces moving some 20 km from the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk. (AFP Photo)
The self-defense forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic have left Slavyansk, which is surrounded by the Kiev military, Russian media reported, citing the republic's headquarters.
“The Ukrainian military is in control of Slavyansk,” Channel One reported citing the headquarters of the Donetsk People's Republic. “Early in the morning, the self-defense fighters were forced to leave the city.”
According to Channel One’s information “there was massive shelling” and then armored vehicles entered Slavyansk and street fighting began. That’s when the self-defense forces took the decision to leave the city, the channel said.
“Despite the massive shooting, the fighters stormed out of the city and headed for neighboring Kramatorsk. Part of their hardware was shot down in the process,” the channel said.
Rossiya 24 channel also reported that self-defense forces had quit Slavyansk, and moved their HQ to Kramatorsk.

After the militia were forced to leave their positions in the northern part of the front, they moved to reserve positions that had been prepared in advance, Itar-Tass news agency reported, citing Prime Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Aleksandr Boroday, as saying.
“Our troops have consolidated at the reserve lines of defense, in an organized way and having kept their weaponry. We were prepared for this option, as we have to face tens of thousands of Kiev's military men and hundreds of armored weaponry units – which means almost all the battle-ready Ukrainian army,” Boroday said.

Aftermath of an artillery attack by the Ukrainian army on the Artyom district in Slavyansk. (RIA Novosti / Andrey Stenin)
Aftermath of an artillery attack by the Ukrainian army on the Artyom district in Slavyansk. (RIA Novosti / Andrey Stenin)
"Taking into account the ‘scorched earth’ tactics employed by Kiev's punitive forces, and the strategy of genocide toward the Donbass population, we declare that every hour of military action claims civilians’ lives,” Boroday said.
In connection with this, he appealed to the international community, calling on them to “influence the Ukrainian authorities and stop the killings of civilians.”

Resident of a building destroyed by an artillery bombardment of Slavyansk by Ukrainian servicemen. (RIA Novosti / Andrey Stenin)
Resident of a building destroyed by an artillery bombardment of Slavyansk by Ukrainian servicemen. (RIA Novosti / Andrey Stenin)
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has ordered the military to raise the Ukrainian flag over Slavyansk, his press service said.
“The head of General Headquarters Viktor Muzhenko has reported to Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, about the fact that overnight, while the self-defense groups were trying to escape Slavyansk they came under mortar fire from the Ukrainian military. As a result, one armored vehicle, two infantry fighting vehicles and two airborne combat vehicles belonging to the [self-defense] fighters have been shot down,” the press service also said.
It has been reported that the intelligence forces of the National Guard and the armed forces of Ukraine are currently operating in Slavyansk.
The Donetsk authorities don’t have any confirmation that the self-defense forces from Slavyansk are moving toward the regional capital, Donetsk Mayor Aleksandr Lukyanchenko’s website said.
“Rumors emerged that the self-defense forces from Slavyansk and Kramatorsk are moving toward Donetsk. However, there is no official confirmation of this,” the message said.
Earlier, one of the leaders of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Pavel Gubarev, said the Slavyansk militia will probably relocate to Donetsk and the surrounding area.
In the neighboring Lugansk region “the self-defense forces are currently at their positions, repelling military attacks and at the same time trying to help civilians who are caught in the fighting," Channel One reported.
Loud explosions have been heard in the area of the Donetsk airport, and gunfire is going on there, local residents told RIA-Novosti news agency. Also, two fighter jets were spotted carrying out strikes on unidentified targets in the area where the airport is situated.
“We are asking the people living near the airport not to leave their apartments, to stay away from their windows and not to go outside except in case of urgent necessity,” the website of the Donetsk mayor’s office said in a warning.
The Russian Foreign Ministry announced Saturday that Moscow is halting the process of delivering weapons, Ukrainian military forces' equipment and funds from the territory of Crimea to Kiev authorities due to their military actions in the east, which have resulted in the “deaths of civilians, including children, and civilian infrastructure in Donetsk and Lugansk regions being destroyed.”
“The decision will be valid until a full ceasefire in the east of Ukraine by the country’s military and until a peaceful solution is reached,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said.

"Invasion of Serb property to be resolved"

FRANKFURT -- Activities of Kosovo's privatization agency undermine the foundations upon which the Serb community in the province is built, says Marko Đurić.
(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)
The director of the Serbian Government Office for Kosovo and Metohija spoke for the Serbian-language daily Vesti, published in Frankfurt, Germany.
"For that reason, one of the priorities is to resolve the matter of privatization agency's actions which judicial bodies in the province have characterized as criminal," he said.

“The invasion of private and state property of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija is a crime against the entire nation and, in a way, a continuation of the policy of ethnic cleansing,” he stressed.

When asked what options the Serbs have to prevent such acts, Đurić pointed to the formation of new executive bodies Kosovo, "which largely depend on the participation of candidates on the Srpska list in the Kosovo government."

The community of Serb municipalities (ZSO) is also to be established, he said, noting that this should create better living conditions for Serbs and prevent the revocation of their rights and further expulsion, as well as various forms of pressure and invasion of their property.

Based on the Belgrade-Priština agreement concluded in Brussels on April 19, 2013, the ZSO will be in charge of urban and rural planning and decision-making regarding the use of land and construction, which is one of the key matters for Serbs that can make the difference between survival and disappearance, said Đurić.

"The dynamics of the ZSO formation, which is already late because of Prišstina's obstruction, depends on further political negotiations in Brussels," he explained.

The Remarkable Missionary Efforts of Archbishop Anastasios

Jul 03, 2014  
Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana is the primate of the Orthodox Church of Albania and one of the most passionate advocates for mission work in the Orthodox Church today.
The brief YouTube documentary above gives you some sense of his ministry and accomplishments. As a young theologian and then clergyman, he organized numerous missionary and humanitarian efforts. He served as a bishop in Africa, founding schools, ordaining African clergy, and overseeing a significant expansion in the Orthodox Church’s effectiveness and vitality.
Then, he came to Albania. Philip Jenkins, professor of history at Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion, wrote in a recent article that the Archbishop’s tenure in Albania represents one of the greatest success stories of any religious leader in the modern-day Balkans. Here’s Jenkins:
When he took office in 1992 he faced a nightmare situation. His see had been vacant since 1973, and virtually all its institutions formally closed. Albanian Orthodoxy survived in a diasporic existence, with its overseas capital in Boston. The country’s Orthodox Church, claiming the loyalty of perhaps 15 percent of the population, faced extinction.
First and foremost, Anastasios is a polymath scholar, with interests in history, linguistics, and comparative religion, but it is difficult to imagine any religious leader accomplishing so much practical real-world good in such a short time. In 20 years he reorganized several hundred parishes, a process that often demanded whole new buildings. Monasteries flourish once more. The archbishop restored the theological academy and seminary and ordained hundreds of new priests. A whole range of Orthodox media now operate, including newspapers and radio stations.
The church’s social outreach and charitable works have been spectacular. The results include new schools and medical clinics, which serve people without regard to religious affiliation. When the wars in former Yugoslavia drove thousands of refugees into Albania, the Orthodox Church took the lead in humanitarian efforts, with Muslims the main beneficiaries. Anastasios works for harmony with the country’s other faiths, including its majority Muslim population and its crucial Sufi orders.
It’s an amazing story — one that hopefully can be emulated throughout the Church.
Watch the documentary on Archbishop Anastasios and let us know what you think of his ministry.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Russia launches large-scale naval drill in Black Sea same day as NATO 

The Moskva guided missile cruiser, the flagship of Russia's Black Sea Fleet (RIA Novosti/Grigoriy Sisoev)

Published time: July 04, 2014 20:08
Some 20 warships, over 20 airplanes and helicopters, as well as the marines and coast artillery are taking part in the Black Sea Fleet exercise, Russian Defense Ministry reported. The war games launched the same day as NATO's military drill in the area.
Starting from July 4, the scheduled training maneuvers are conducted in the whole of the Black Sea, the Ministry told journalists on Friday, adding the drill is being carried out according to international standards.

"The exercise plan involves performance of a number of combat training missions, including destruction of enemy naval forces at sea and organizing naval and coastal air defense," the Ministry explained.

Under command of Admiral Aleksandr Vitko, the Russian military of the Black Sea Fleet will also exercise in the search, detection and destruction of imaginary enemy submarines.

Coordinated actions between naval forces, coastal units and aviation are being practiced within the maneuvers.

"Coastal troops and the marines will drill battling with tactical assault force, while airplanes of the fleet air will be engaged in air reconnaissance and targeting "enemy" ships," the Defense Ministry said.

All units, warship and plane crews act in situations that are very close to real war actions, Itar Tass agency reported. "Senior officers improve decision-making skills in fast-changing environment, designed by the exercise scenario," said the agency source.

As part of the training on July 4, five Moskit and Malakhit cruise missiles were launched, all of which reached their targets with direct hits, according to the data. SU-24 aircrafts attacked targets at sea.

On July 4 NATO’s annual Sea Breeze military drills kicked off in the Black Sea. Warships from several countries, including Turkey and the US participated in the exercise, which has been called a "direct threat" to Russia’s national security by a Russian military expert.

NATO’s naval war games in the western part of the Black Sea will be held through July 13.

In June, the Baltic Sea was the area for both NATO and Russian major military exercises.
NATO war games in Latvia happened amid high tension between the Alliance and Russia over the Ukrainian crisis, and was regarded as a sign of aggression by the latter. Russia then launched its Baltic drills in response to the joint NATO forces exercise.

Albanians riot over verdict in quintuple murder case

SKOPJE -- A protest was held in Skopje on Friday in front of a court after six ethnic Albanians were sentenced to life in prison earlier in the week.
(Image made from video)
(Image made from video)
The group was found guilty of murdering five Macedonian men in April 2012, just before Orthodox Easter.
The local media are reporting today that thousands of mostly young Albanians gathered for the protest, and threw rocks at the police, who responded with stun grenades, tear gas, and water canons.

The protesters were carrying Albanian flags with Islamic markings, and beside chanting "UCK" - the Albanian language acronym for the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA - they were also shouting "Allahu Akbar."

The demonstration was called via social networks, and is reportedly organized by human rights activists and family members of those convicted for the brutal killing of the five men.

The invitation to the protest was circulated on the internet, specifying that the gathering would be held after Friday prayers in mosques, and added:

"We organize a protest against staged trials, injustice, unpunished murders, mistreatment of families, ethnic and religious hatred. People, this is not merely a protest, it is a national duty. Unless we intervene today when injustice has reached its peak, let the seed of the cowards be erased."

The text added that the protest was supported by "many associations and societies for human rights, Albanian organizations, and public figures."

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Iraq's Kurds push for independence referendum

Country moves step closer to breaking up as regional government's president calls for preparation for vote to begin.

The president of the Kurdish region of northern Iraq has asked his parliament to prepare for a referendum on independence, potentially paving the way for the break-up of the country.
Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, called on parliament on Thursday to form an independent electoral commission that would start organising a referendum on independence for the semi-autonomous region.
"It will strengthen our position and will be a powerful weapon in our hands," he said.
Al Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal, reporting from the regional capital Erbil, said the move was in line with the Kurds' march for self-determination.
Barzani's latest call is expected to anger Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, who is struggling to keep a grip on the country.
On Friday, Barzani issued a defiant statement to Baghdad that there was no going back on autonomous Kurdish rule in the oil city of Kirkuk.
The US has urged Barzani to stick with Baghdad, though Barzani said during a meeting last month with John Kerry, US secretary of state, that it was "very difficult" to imagine Iraq staying together.
The Kurdish region has long been at odds with Iraq's federal government on numerous issues, especially over what Kurdish politicians say are delayed and insufficient budget payments to the region.
But the issue is significantly complicated by the Kurds' control of Kirkuk and a chunk of other northern territory that they want to absorb, over the Maliki government's strong objections.
Speaking on Wednesday, Maliki accused the Kurds of "exploiting current events in order to impose a reality" and called the latest moves unacceptable.
Though calls for a referendum on independence are not new - Kurds strongly backed independence in a 2005 non-binding vote - the drastic change in the situation on the ground means the Kurds now see a fully sovereign state as within their grasp.
State within grasp
Iraq's five million Kurds, who have ruled themselves within Iraq in relative peace since the 1990s, have expanded their territory by up to 40 percent in recent weeks as a Sunni-led rebellion seized vast stretches of western and northern Iraq.
Saudi Arabia, who shares an 800km long border with Iraq sent 30,000 troops to guard its border after Iraqi soldiers withdrew from the area.
State news agency SPA said King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz ordered all necessary measures to protect the kingdom against potential "terrorist threats".
In Thursday's other developments, Sunni fighters released 32 Turkish lorry drivers captured in Mosul during a offensive across the north and west of the country.
Al Jazeera's Bernard Smith, reporting from Silopi, a Turkish district close to Iraq border, said the drivers were freed earlier in the day and were expected to fly back from Erbil.
Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, said the drivers were well but did not provide any details on the circumstances leading to their release.
Speaking in Ankara, he said efforts were under way to secure the release of the Turks still in captivity.
Fighters from the recently declared Islamic State seized the men on June 9. Three days later, they captured another 49 people from the Turkish consulate in Mosul.
"The critical process continues," he said. "Our prayers and our efforts will go on for the rest of them and God willing, we will share such good news about them too as soon as possible."

Bechtel JV wins Kosovo to Macedonia highway contract

The government of Kosovo has chosen Bechtel and its joint-venture partner Enka to build a new 60km motorway linking the capital, Pristina, to neighbouring Macedonia.

The team has already built Route 7 Above: The team has already built Route 7
The new motorway, Route 6, will connect Kosovo with the surrounding region and will be the country’s second motorway. The country’s first, Route 7, which runs from Morina on the Albanian border to the north of Pristina, was built by the Bechtel-Enka team and delivered a year ahead of schedule in November 2013.
The contract was awarded following a competitive, international tender process.
“This motorway will create a second major transport artery through Kosovo, connecting us to Macedonia and helping Kosovo become a crossroads for traffic from ports in Greece and Albania,” said Fehmi Mujota, Kosovo’s minister of infrastructure. “Improving our transport links is crucial to developing new and expanded businesses and will spur long-term economic growth in Kosovo.”
Above: Andrew Patterson (left), Bechtel’s sector manager for roads, bridges and industrial cities shaking hands with Femhi Mujota, minister of infrastructure for the Kosovo Government, after the signing of the contract for the new motorway.
“Collaboration with the government and people of Kosovo was crucial to helping us deliver their first motorway a year ahead of schedule,” said Peter Dawson, president of Bechtel’s global civil infrastructure business. “We feel privileged to have this opportunity to work together again and to help further build Kosovo’s transport network and expand its economy.”
Construction of the new motorway will start immediately and is expected to take four years. The Bechtel-Enka team trained more than 10,000 Kosovars on the Route 7 motorway project and will continue to place a high priority on hiring Kosovars and local suppliers to successfully deliver the Route 6 project.
Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, has ratified the choice of President Petro Poroshenko for the new defense minister
Valery Geletey became head of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry on Thursday. Two hundred and sixty members of the Rada voted in favor of Geletey. The 46-year-old colonel-general earlier served as the head of security at the presidential and parliamentary administration.
Poroshenko also appointed General Viktor Muzhenko as a new head of General Staff. His predecessor, Mikhail Kutsyi, earlier received severe injuries and brain concussion in the ongoing military action and is currently in hospital.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (R) congratulates Ukraine's new Defence minister Valeriy Geletey after the parliement approved his appointment in parliament in Kiev on July 3, 2014. (AFP Photo / Anatoliy Stepanov)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (R) congratulates Ukraine's new Defence minister Valeriy Geletey after the parliement approved his appointment in parliament in Kiev on July 3, 2014. (AFP Photo / Anatoliy Stepanov)

USS Donald Cook’s visit to Albania

During the USS Donald Cook’s visit to Albania, while anchored off the Port of Durres, the US Navy’s 6th Fleet and Commander Scott Jones hosted a brief ship tour and luncheon for several VIPs including Ambassador Arvizu, Minister of Defense Mimi Kodheli, and Chief of the General Staff of the Albanian Armed Forces Major General Jeronim Bazo. While the ship was in port, the USS Donald Cook conducted maritime interdiction operations exchange with their counterparts from the Albanian Navy, Border Police, and Customs Service.

At least seven civilians killed by Ukrainian airstrike near Lugansk

Ukrainian warplanes on Thursday bombed a village near 20 Lugansk, killing seven villagers including a five-year-old girl. The Ukrainian military claims that the bombing was the result of a pilot’s error. Valery Golenko, head of the Lugansk regional administration, claims that the bombing raid caused worse casualties. He said twelve were killed and at least twice as many were injured.

The Ukrainian troops have been shelling and bombing the Lugansk region for two days now. Damage has been caused to industrial and administrative buildings and homes. Power and water supply has been disrupted in several villages.
Read more:

US media, gov't silent about continiung murders in Ukraine - Stephen Cohen

US media, gov't silent about continiung murders in Ukraine - Stephen Cohen

Well-known researcher of Russian studies Stephen Cohen has harshly criticized the US president's administration's position on Ukraine. Cohen's article has been published by The Nation. He blames the US press for warped judgement and evasiveness.

"Obama's administration's response, as well as that of new cold war hawks in the Congress and the leading media, is two-fold: silence periodically broken with statements in support of Kiev which encourages the latter to new atrocities," the expert believes.
"Very few Americans, among whom is, notably, independent scholar Gordon Kahn, speak against this scandalous aiding. We gallantly disagree about the reasons and methods of solving the Ukrainian crisis which resulted in a serious confrontation between Russia and the US for the first time in decades, but we keep silent about those deeds that are coming or have already come to the level of war crimes," Cohen says.
The US scholar points out that the precedent of a coup was created as early as in the autumn of 2013. It was created by Maidan supporters in West Ukraine who protested against Yanukovych and in some places even announced independence from his policy, Cohen stresses.
The historian believes Kiev's actions in the east of the country are illegitimate. Kiev's 'anti-terrorist' policy is creating a climate of fear in the attacked cities. Terrified by shelling and bombing, by helicopters and fighter jets in the sky, families are hiding in cellars and other dark shelters. Even The New York Times which, similarly to the other leading US media, avoids mentioning the atrocities reported about Slavyansk survivors who are living like  they are in the Middle Ages. Meanwhile, a growing number of refugees, mostly women and children, are crossing the border to Russia, Cohen writes. He also disagrees with downplaying the role of Ukrainian nationalists in the development of the crisis. He criticises US champions of Kiev for claiming that Ukrainian neo-Nazis are just turned-on nationalists, a kind of Euro-populists, who do not enjoy people's support and consequently are of no importance.
He is against comparing Putin with Nazis. "Well-known Americans, such as Hillary Clinton, Zbigniew Brzezinski or George Will, are comparing Putin to Hitler. This is an example of new cold warriors hastily and recklessly undermining the US national security in the fields in which cooperation with Putin's government is of paramount importance. If we look ahead we can say that potential presidents who say such things will not be welcomed by Putin with open arms because his brother died and his father sustained injuries in the war against Nazism," Cohen writes.
The expert is urging Americans to act. "Today when Ukraine is approaching a humanitarian catastrophe Obama and Kerry seem to have disappeared as statesmen. They have stepped in the background leaving the floor to lower-rank officials, only from time to time speaking about Kiev's and Washington's good intentions and Putin's responsibility for the violence," Cohen says.
Cohen believes that Obama's administration justifies Ukrainian authorities' crimes. Following the bloody events in Odessa, Obama welcomed the Ukrainian government's 'restraint'. After that the US administration blocked Russia's initiative for a UN humanitarian corridor between East Ukraine and Russia.
Cohen also criticizes the US media. "During the Ukrainian crisis they are behaving just as narrow-mindedly and evasively as the White House and the Department of State. They are smoothing over the atrocities and on the whole are relying on information coming from Washington and Kiev," Cohen says.
Read more:

Syrian chemical weapons leave Italy to be destroyed in int'l waters

Syrian chemical weapons leave Italy  to be destroyed in int'l waters

A US ship carrying deadly material from Syria's chemical arsenal has left Italy in the final phases of the destruction of the weapons. The naval vessel is taking the cargo, including mustard gas and components of the nerve agents VX and sarin, to international waters where it is to be destroyed. The materials were transferred from a Danish vessel to the US ship earlier on Wednesday, at the port of Gioia Tauro. 

Syria agreed to the destruction of its chemical weapons stockpile last year. The deal, backed by the UN and brokered by Russia and the US, was made amid the threat of US air strikes, triggered by a sarin gas attack on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus.
The shipment marks the closing phases in the operation to destroy Syria's chemical arsenal.
The Danish vessel, Ark Futara, docked on Wednesday morning, carrying the materials and accompanied by Italian coast guard ships and a military helicopter.
The transfer of the cargo to the US ship was completed amid tight security, with access roads to the port sealed off, BBC reports. 
A Danish ship carrying Syria's chemical weapons arsenal arrived in Italy where it will be transferred to a US cargo vessel Cape Ray that will destroy the toxic material. The ship, escorted by an Italian coast guard vessel and a helicopter, arrived to the Italian port of Gioia Tauro on Wednesday.
Local officials estimate that the transfer of chemicals might take as long as 20 hours depending on sea conditions. Once the chemicals are moved onto the Cape Ray, it will sail into the open sea and the process of neutralizing the materials will begin.
Last month, the last batch of Syrian chemical weapons, including mustard gas and the raw materials for sarin nerve gas were picked up by the Danish ship Ark Futura for its further destruction as part of the international effort to destroy Syria's chemical stockpile.
Russia is critical of Western attempts to keep pumping money into the Syrian opposition, saying it will cause the crisis in the country to deteriorate further, and reiterates that there is no alternative to a political settlement, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told RIA Novosti.
"Whatever slogans cover the US decision to provide such aid, in essence, this is about fomenting the fire of war in the Middle East," Ryabkov said in Damascus, adding that pumping the opposition with funds will only aggravate the crisis in Syria.
"Unfortunately our arguments, which are in fact obvious, are not being heard in Washington,' Ryabkov said. 'We will continue our work as there is no alternative to a political settlement," he added.
Read more:

EU enlargement in Balkans "strategically important"

BRUSSELS -- Three current and future EU presiding countries say they will "work on the further progress of negotiations on the membership of the Western Balkan countries."
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
Italy, Latvia, and Luxembourg will hold the presidency of the EU over the next year and a half, and in a joint program, they stressed that "the policy of enlargement is of strategic importance, as the fundamental means of improving peace, democracy and security in Europe."
The program and the strategic guidelines framework for the EU's activities until the end of 2015, reiterates that after the start of the membership negotiations with Serbia in January 2014, and on the basis of the outcome of the screening, the negotiations will continue in accordance with the new approach, so that their true progress is secured, the Beta news agency reported.

The agency said it had seen the program, which sets the condition for Serbia "to be capable of honoring the requirements laid out in the negotiating framework and for it to satisfy the negotiations' criteria."

It was also reiterated that special attention will be dedicated to the European prospects of the Western Balkans, and that each candidate country will be graded according to their accomplishments in carrying out the necessary economic and political reforms.

According to the documents, the Council of Ministers of the EU will continue to support the EU perspective of Bosnia-Herzegovina with the goal of arriving to the status of candidate for membership, "respecting the principle of equal and strict conditions."

It added that "membership negotiations could be launched with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia based on the decision of the Council of Ministers and with the approval of the EU Council," and without delving into the "name dispute" between Athens and Skopje, stressed once again that it was the condition for determining a date for the start of negotiations with Skopje.

The tripartite document also noted that after Albania was made a candidate for membership, the start of negotiations would depend on "the further progress of reforms" in that country.

Poroshenko makes fatal mistake by ending ceasefire in Ukraine's southeast - PM Medvedev

Poroshenko makes fatal mistake by ending ceasefire in Ukraine's southeast - PM Medvedev

Ukrainian President Petr Poroshenko made a fatal mistake when he had ended the truce, Russian Prime Minister believes. Poroshenko is now personally responsible for casualties, Medvedev believes.

"Having ended truce, President Poroshenko has made a fatal mistake. It will bring new casualties. And he is personally responsible for them now," Medvedev posted on his Facebook account on Wednesday.
"Huge flow of refugees. Dozen thousands. People are fleeing from war. The US propaganda claims they are going 'for vacation to grandmothers.' Cynicism has no limit," the Russian prime minister said.
"It will be difficult to develop relations with Ukraine amid such circumstances, and impossible on certain issues," Medvedev said.
Prime Minister Medvedev said that Russia would take protective measures concerning its market after Ukraine signed an association agreement with the European Union.
"On June 27 Ukraine signed an Association Agreement with the European Union. This is Ukraine's right. Russia's right is to switch to new conditions for working with it. To protect its market. The decision on protection measures will be made after consultations. The Russian government is analyzing the current situation and devising our steps under the CIS free trade zone agreement and the WTO (World Trade Organization) rules," he said.
Medvedev predicted "a full-blown gas crisis" by autumn as a result of Ukraine's denial to pay for Russian gas.
"Ukraine doesn't pay for gas. The debt is huge. They take gas from underground depots. There'll be a full-blown gas crisis by autumn," he wrote, Interfax reports.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Northern Epirus and Golden Dawn

Northern Epirotes have been denigrated and considered as second class citizens by a significant section of the mainstream since their arrival en masse in Greece in 1991, after the demise of the communist regime in Albania

Northern Epirus and Golden Dawn
Golden Dawn members demonstrating at the Greek Albanian border.
Recently, a friend from Northern Epirus remarked to me that in the recent European elections, he intended to vote for a Golden Dawn candidate. He also observed that not a few Greeks from Northern Epirus had begun to support that party and, had sought nomination as its candidates. This is gravely disquieting. 

The issue of Northern Epirus, a region in southern Albania that has historically been heavily populated by Greeks, has seen itself transform in the twentieth century, from its original nationalistic context, whereby the dominant Greek population was considered unredeemed, its territory fuelling aspirations for annexation or union, depending on one's perspective, to a humanitarian context, whereby efforts are made to ensure that all inhabitants of Albania, regardless of race or religion, are permitted to fully partake in the life of that country, without restriction or persecution. Albania still has some way to go in affording minorities full human rights. The government's unwillingness to acknowledge the Greek identity espoused by the resident of Himara, the confiscation of land from Himariotes and its subsequent sale to European consortiums, coupled with vehement and paranoid attacks on the Greek indigenous minority by the press are some of the challenges facing the region.

This notwithstanding - political parties have been formed in the past by the Greek minority, notably 'Omonoia', whose leadership was imprisoned after a show trial in the nineties - most Northern Epirote politicians have chosen to represent their compatriots through the mainstream Albanian political parties.
Even the last of the minority parties, the Union for Human Rights, represents the interests of a range of ethnic minorities, not specifically the Greek one, and has formed coalitions with both the left and right of the Albanian political spectrum. Further, though the relationship between the Albanian government and the Orthodox church in Albania has been characterised by friction, as the Pan-Orthodox delegation to the opening of the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Albania's capital Tirana, attended by the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Patriarchs of Jerusalem, Georgia, Serbia and a host of other European hierarchs indicates, the Northern Epirotes, their political and religious leaders, all believe their best interests lie in integration within an eventually tolerant and ethnically diverse Albania.

Across the border, in Greece, things are somewhat different. Since their arrival en masse in Greece in 1991, after the demise of the communist regime in Albania, Northern Epirotes have been denigrated and considered as second class citizens by a significant section of the mainstream. Oppressed by the communist regime because of their ethnic and religious affiliations and careful to preserve their language and customs at great personal peril to themselves, the Greeks of Northern Epirus expected, upon their arrival in Greece, to be treated as long-suffering brethren. After all, it was the Greeks of Northern Epirus that gifted to the renascent Greek state, most of its infrastructure, including hospitals, the Panathenaic stadium, the Zappeion building, the University and Polytechnic, the Academy, the National Bank of Greece and countless other institutions. Again, it was the Greeks of Northern Epirus that guided, supplied, and fought with the Greek army over the mountains in 1940, in its quest to combat Italian fascism and again, it was the Greeks of Northern Epirus who buried the dead Greek soldiers in secret graves, safeguarding their location for decades, from the Albanian state. In post-Cold-War Greece, none of this seemed to matter and instead, to their horror, Northern Epirotes were generally lumped into the same category as their erstwhile oppressors, the Albanians, and referred to dismissively as "αλλοδαποί". Decades later, this insensitive conflation of the two identities still grates with many Northern Epirotes, even those now resident in Australia. For example, in a play currently being performed in Australia entitled In-Laws from Tirana, a girl informs her father that she is marrying an Albanian. "So he is a Northern Epirote," the father responds. This type of endo-ethnic racism has caused untold pain among a people who believe that Greece has never truly accepted them and has, in fact, abandoned them.

The symptoms of such a belief are omnipresent throughout Greece, within the Northern Epirote community. Many young Northern Epirotes are ashamed of their origins and try to hide them. Instead they focus on assimilating within mainstream Greek culture, abandoning their own distinctive accent and traditions. Others, in increasing numbers, are drawn to extreme political viewpoints such as those held by Golden Dawn.
"Look at it this way," my friend responded when I ventured to suggest that by Northern Epirotes supporting the extremist ravings of Golden Dawn, they're doing more harm to their cause than good, fuelling Albanian nationalist paranoia, thus making the lives of their compatriots resident in Albania difficult: "In Greece, no political party ever speaks about Northern Epirus. Instead, over the years they have tried to fragment the political movements of the Northern Epirotes and turn them into their own puppets. At least Golden Dawn is on our side."

Golden Dawn's leader has repeatedly called for the liberation of Northern Epirus. Last year, led by the party's Member of Parliament Christos Pappas and together with MPs Christos Rigas and Konstantinos Barbarousis, Golden Dawn supporters from Epirus blocked the border crossing at Kakavia. At that time, Christos Pappas stated: "We came to these artificial borders in order to demonstrate our struggle for the liberation of Northern Epirus. Albania is scared of Golden Dawn because it is the only party that includes in its program the struggle for the Greeks of Northern Epirus."

Edelstein: Albania proves Israel can have good ties with Muslim countries

07/02/2014 14:35

"Albania is a Muslim country that shows things can be different," Knesset Speaker says in meeting with his Albanian counterpart.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein meets with his Albanian counterpart Ilir Meta. Photo: KNESSET SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE
Albania is proof that Israel can have good relations with Muslim countries, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said in a meeting with his Albanian counterpart Ilir Meta Wednesday.

"Albania is a Muslim country that shows things can be different," Edelstein told Meta, who is visiting Israel for the first time. "Israel-Albania relations are continuing to grow closer and I that your visit hear will contribute to that."

Edelstein also pointed out that Albania saved all of its approximately 800 Jewish residents during the Holocaust and had a larger Jewish population after World War II than it did before.

"Israel is an advanced country and there is great potential for commerce between us, for investments and for your expertise in technology," Meta said. "I wrote in your guest book that I am proud to represent Albania in the Knesset, because we saved as many Jews as we could during the Holocaust."

Meta also expressed condolences at the murder of the three teens who were kidnapped by Hamas three weeks ago and said he hopes the killers are brought to justice.
Marine Agreement and issues between Albania and Greece will continue to be treated
President of Republic Bujar Nishani and his Greek counterpart Karolos Papoulias today agreed that the marine agreement and the Albania-Greece issues will continue to be treated between the two countries.

Through telephone conversation, President Nishani thanked President Papoulias, for the role he played in his country, the neighbor of Albania, and in the Presidency of the EU, advocating loudly for granting EU candidate status to Albania in the EU. The President emphasized that this deserved decision which is very important for Albania, is an appreciation for the achievements so far but also a strong encouragement to proceed in the way of further reforms.

"President Papoulias expressed satisfaction that the promise made during the end of the year visit to Tirana, a strong commitment to support the government during the Greek EU Presidency, was fully realized. He expressed satisfaction that the Greek presidency passes to another neighbor of Albania, respectively Italy, which is coordinated with the support so far but also in continuation for Albania. President Papoulias also expressed hope that bilateral issues will continue to be treated, including the agreement on the delimitation of the continental shelf and other maritime areas. " The Presidency said in the announcement.

President Nishani expressed confidence that the two countries would resolve all issues, including the delimitation of maritime zones in respect and implementation of European and international standards. Once again he praised President Papoulias as a special friend of Albania and Albanians.

Kiev's bloody eastern Ukraine campaign LIVE UPDATES

Published time: April 15, 2014 14:19
Edited time: July 01, 2014 19:02
Refugees on the outskirts of Lugansk after the artillery shelling of the village of Metallist (RIA Novosti / Valery Melnikov)
Refugees on the outskirts of Lugansk after the artillery shelling of the village of Metallist (RIA Novosti / Valery Melnikov)
Fighting is continuing between Kiev and anti-government troops in southeastern Ukraine as the cease-fire expired on Monday evening. Russia and the EU have called to prolong the truce and start the third round of negotiations.

Wednesday, July 2

12:48 GMT:
Three Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 10 other injured in fighting in the in the south-east, Andrey Lysenko, chairman of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, said.

According to Lysenko, Kiev troops and self-defense forces of the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk engaged in combat on 19 occasions during the last 24 hours.

Several militia groups were trying to break out of the encirclement near the town of Slavyansk in the Donetsk Region, he said.

During the night, a military installation near the village of Melovoye in Lugansk Region was also attacked by the self-defense forces, Lysenko added.
12:25 GMT:
The heads of three leading Russian TV stations have called on the authorities of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic to release the journalists from Ukraine’s Hromadske TV.
“Regardless of the position media professionals take in the Ukrainian conflict, they must be allowed to do their jobs unhindered,” they said in a joint statement.
Hromadske TV correspondent Anastasia Stanko and cameraman Ilya Beskorovainy were reported as detained by Lugansk militias on Tuesday. The militia fighters suspect them of gathering intelligence for the Ukrainian military. The detention was condemned by the OSCE.
Earlier, troops loyal to Kiev detained on separate occasions several Russian journalists and held them in custody for several days.
10:35 GMT:
07:01 GMT:
A Russian citizen has been killed after Kiev troops shelled the city of Slavyansk, eastern Ukraine, reported LifeNews. According to the neighbors of the victim, she arrived from St. Petersburg to see if her apartment in Slavyansk was safe after repeated attacks from Ukrainian army. When the shelling started, many of the local residents hurried to the bomb shelters but the Russian woman didn’t manage to reach the shelter and was killed in the apartment building. Three people were also injured in the attack. One woman remains in serious condition.

Serbian Church sends letter to Vatican

BELGRADE -- A letter explaining the position of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) regarding the canonization of Alojzije Stepinac was recently handed to a Vatican official.
Patriarch Irinej (Tanjug, file)
Patriarch Irinej (Tanjug, file)
The daily Politika writes that the letter was given to Secretary of the Holy See for Relations with States Dominique Mamberti, who has been on a visit to Serbia.
The content of the message, however, remains unknown, but the newspaper noted that the SPC "undoubtedly does not view favorably announcements that Stepinac could become a saint."

Mamberti will also take with him to the Vatican another letter dedicated to the same subject, sent by the Serbian president.

In an interview for Politika published in Sunday, SPC Patriarch Irinej said the announcements from the Vatican that Stepinac could be canonized by the end of the year came as "a great surprise" for the Serbian Orthodox dignitaries - "because in order for someone to be a saint, they must be a truly shining and holy personality and be accepted as such by other Christians."

Stepinac was a WW2-era Croatian Catholic cardinal, convicted after the war for collaboration with the fascist Independent State of Croatia (NDH) entity. The NDH operated death camps during the war that were the sites of mass murder of Serbs, Jews, and Romas.
Debate for Noli's statue
Top Channel TV

Debate for Noli's statue
The Orthodox Church of “Apostle Pavel and Saint Asti” has reacted with a public declaration after a status of Fan Noli was placed in Elbasan, and after its refusal in Durres.

The Church declared that the association "Albanian National Nest" interrupted the official talks with the church and the situation that had been created is not decent at all.

“What happened yesterday doesn’t honor his wounderful work for the country and the church, but offends it. The statue of Father Fan Noli should stay in Durres, where it belongs. To realize this we will request cooperation from the local authorities”, declared father Spiro Kostoli.

The Durres Municipality says there has been no official request for placing Noli’s statue in Durres, while 2.5 years ago, they have receievd a request for naming the road in front of the church after Fan Noli, where he held the first mass in Albanian in 10 March 2014.

The Municipality’s commission voted for another name, that of Spiro Puteci.

The association “National Nest” reacted after this declaration and explained: “If they want to answer positively and allow the statue to be placed at the Church’s yard, we will fund and built an even bigger statue for the Mitropolit. The Durres Orthodox Church should not manipulate the public’s opinion with hypocrisy. If they tell us that they accept the statue, we will finance it,”

Monday, June 30, 2014

Serbian president meets with Barroso

BELGRADE -- Tomislav Nikolić and Jose Manuel Barroso have concluded that Serbia and the EU hold different views on world events "in some 50 percent of the cases."
The Serbian president told a joint news conference he held in Belgrade with the president of the European Commission that he "explained the position of Serbia on any specific point of disagreement, even where we have an agreement on common policy."
"We will consider if we perhaps missed to have identical positions somewhere... Serbia is a country that has its own policy and we wish to fit this policy into the interests of all citizens of Serbia and in a much broader policy," said Nikolić.

Nikolić said that he discussed chapters 23 and 24, regarding the fight against corruption and crime, and public administration reform and added that they also discussed relations with the administration of Priština, what has been achieved so far and what is yet to be achieved, and the conditions of implementation of the Brussels agreement.

According to him, the meeting was open, and that during it, "positions that are the same, as well as those that could be the subject of discussion in order to find a common path" were noted.

Serbia, Nikolić said, has its own policy that should be conducted in accordance with the interests of the citizens, it has "friends in the north and the east and the west and the south," but added that it was "necessary to fit this policy into a broader policy."

Barroso said he believes that, "if there is political will on both sides," Serbia can join the EU.

Nikolić thanked him for the efforts and support given by Serbia on its path towards the EU and said that Barroso came to visit Serbia, "the next member of the EU."

Nikolić believes that Serbia "made progress also because all members of the European Commission, above all Barroso, were committed to the idea that Serbia in the near future should join the EU."

He added that the assistance that the European Union gave after the catastrophic floods showed that Serbia "can count on a much larger European family."

"Who knows how this would have ended up if many EU member states, but also those that are not, did not help with the equipment that Serbia does not have," he said.

Nikolić said he and Barroso discussed a donor conference that will "show solidarity with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia of all countries of the world, with the full patronage of the EU and with the cooperation of the United Nations."

Talking about political issues, Nikolić said that without Serbia in the EU, "the future of the Western Balkans would be very uncertain."
Barroso said that the process of Serbia's accession to the EU was going at a good pace thanks to the commitment of the negotiating team and said that Serbia can count on the support of the EU in the further process.

Speaking about reform programs, the president of the European Commission welcomed the economic reform, the fight against crime and corruption, and public administration reform.

"I believe that it is important for the Serbian people, regardless of accession to the EU," he said. Barroso said that the EU was with Serbia "in times of pain and suffering," and expressed condolences to the victims of the recent floods.

"There is still a lot of work, but you can count on the support of the EU," he said, recalling that on a donor conference organized by France and Slovenia, and hosted by the EU, would be held in Brussels on July 16.

Barroso emphasized "the significant progress in the normalization of relations with Kosovo," which he said was certainly very important.

"I expect that Belgrade and Priština ensure the continuation and progress of the dialogue," he said.

According to him, Serbia has "a unique role" in the Western Balkans and its accession to the EU is crucial for further enlargement of the EU in the region.

"I'm here on behalf of the EU to reiterate that this process can succeed," concluded the outgoing president of the European Commission at the end of his visit to Serbia.

EU's Barroso urges Albanians to unite over reforms

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — The European Commission's outgoing president has urged Albanian politicians to set their differences aside and focus on the reforms required in the country's bid for European Union membership.
Jose Manuel Barroso's visit to Tirana on Monday follows the EU decision last week to grant Albania candidate membership status and previously rejected similar requests three times.
Candidate status is considered the first major step in Albania's long and uncertain path to full membership in the 28-nation bloc.
In an address to parliament, Barroso urged the Socialist-led government and the opposition Democratic Party to focus on EU-demanded efforts to tackle organized crime and corruption and bring Albania's judiciary and administration up to European standards.
Barroso also warned that Albania's economy remains "vulnerable" and said structural reforms are necessary to ensure long-term growth.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Final results of Kosovo elections, Serbs get 10 seats

PRIŠTINA -- Kosovo's Central Election Commission (CEC) has announced the final results of the early June snap parliamentary elections.
A coalition led by Hashim Thaci’s Democratic Party of Kosovo has won 37 seats in the new assembly in Priština, while Serbs will have ten deputies.
Out of that number, the Srpska List will have nine, and Nenad Rašić's Progressive Democratic Party one seat.

The Democratic League of Kosovo will have 30, Self-Determination 16, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo 11, the Initiative for Kosovo six seats.

The Turkish, Bosniak, Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities will have a total of ten representatives in the 120-seat assembly.