Saturday, February 7, 2015

Photo of the Day


Kurds re-take Kobani, but only rubble remains

Photo by Reuters/Osman Orsal  
A fighter with the Kurdish People's Protection Units in Kobani, northern Syria, after retaking it from Islamic State terrorists.

EU overflown with Kosovo Albanian refugees

Serbia-Hungary border - Photo: Reuters
Serbia-Hungary border - Photo: ReutersPublished: Feb 7, 2015

SUBOTICA – At least 500 Kosovo Albanians arrives to the main bus station in Subotica every day. Most often they spend a day in Palic, and then they continue their way to Hungary and other EU countries crossing the border illegally, writes “Blic”.

Photo: Marko Djurica / ReutersSerbia-Hungary border – Photo: Reuters

They avoid major border crossings, such as Kelebija and Horgos, and go through secret channels, across the fields, to Backi Vinogradi.

“It all began descretely about four weeks ago, when we noticed a large number of passengers in regular traffic, but from ten days ago we have, on average, up to seven part-time buses coming from the south. Passengers stay shortly at the bus station and take taxi to leave,” said Miodrag Stojkovic, assistant director of “Subotica Trans”.

Photo: Marko Djurica / Reuters

Four buses of “Nis Express” arrived from Pristina at Subotica bus station until 10 o’clock.

Passengers, mostly youth and a few families, leave with their heads down and approach to taxi drivers who are waiting in front of the station and drive at the price of around 30 euros.

“For more than a month passengers from Kosovo have been arriving with part-time lines and we drive them most often to Palic, to motels and hotels,” says a taxi driver Nebojsa Jeremic.

None of the passengers was in the mood to talk, only a few of them even agreed to stop.

“We left all we had in Kosovo. We do not have anything to live of. The misery is great. I know it will be hard to get there [in EU] , but I don’t feel sorry for anything in Kosovo,” said a middle-aged Albanian who arrived to Subotica with wife and two children.

The family enters a taxi with a few young men pushing to get in with them.

“We only have identity cards. Some have already agreed a transport across the border, but we do not have the money. Leave us, we already have a lot of our own problems. Whatever happens to me, I will know that at least I tried to avoid the life that none of us didn’t even think could happen in an independent Kosovo,” said a bitter young Albanian.

According to Subotica’s citizens who crossed the border at Backi Vinogradi, hundreds of Albanians walked along the road.

“It was horrible to see mothers with children walk, and many would stop, hold their hands in prayer and begged drivers to take them,” said Marinko H.V. from Subotica.

In Hungary they are not welcomed with open arms. The mayor of a border town Asotalom, Lazslo Torockaj, proposed erecting a fence around the village in order to defend the place from asylum seekers.

Opinion poll shows Greeks support government stance toward 'troika'

First entry: 7 February 2015
Opinion poll shows Greeks support government stance toward 'troika'
Three quarters, or 75%, of Greeks believe the new government is determined to carry out its election pledges and 72% consider the government's confrontation with the 'troika' to be right, according to an opinion poll released on Saturday.
Roughly six in 10 (59%) believe that the clash between Greece and its creditors will continue into the coming weeks.
The poll also showed that support for the government's positions does not come exclusively from those voting for the two parties that now form Greece's coalition government, Syriza and the Independent Greeks (ANEL), where backing for the government's moves stands at 91.5% and 91%, but also by 43% of those who voted for main opposition New Democracy.
The possibility that the country may be forced to leave the euro is feared by 35.5% of those asked, 9.5% hope for such an outcome and one in three does not believe Greece's exit from the euro is possible.
Conducted by the University of Macedonia for the medial channel SKAI, it was the first poll gauging public opinion on developments in the wake of the Greek elections.

Pentagon thinktank claims Putin has Asperger's – has Putinology gone too far?

‘Movement patterns analysis’ expert lead studies in 2008 and 2011 which suggested Russian president has ‘autistic disorder’ as gleaned from video footage
Vladimir Putin
Putin’s face is ‘relatively flat in social settings’, said Dr Stephen Porges, a psychologist recruited to examine footage of Putin. Photograph: Darko Vojinovic/AP
If Kremlinology made for a viable career track at the Pentagon during the cold war, Putinology is its pale 21st-century successor, complete with geopolitical guessing games, spycraft and the unknowable machinations of the man inside Red Square. The latest contribution to the field comes courtesy of a Pentagon thinktank: a suggestion that Vladimir Putin has an autistic disorder.
Studies from 2008 and 2011, commissioned by the Pentagon and revealed by USA Today through a freedom of information request, suggest Putin has “an autistic disorder which affects all of his decisions” and may be Asperger syndrome. But the studies, which focused on videos of the Russian president, do not claim to make a diagnosis and are primarily the brainchild of one person, Brenda Connors of the US Naval War College (USNWC) in Newport, Rhode Island.
Connors, a “movement patterns analysis” expert, is a former State Department official and professional dancer who has been described, by a psychologist from the University of Chicago, as a “dancer and diplomat”.
She recruited specialists to examine footage of Putin. One of them, Dr Stephen Porges, a University of North Carolina psychologist, told the Guardian: “Everyone should drop this whole thing about Asperger’s and autism.”
Porges never saw either USNWC report but said the objective was never diagnosis, which would be impossible with so little evidence.
“You don’t diagnose based on videotapes,” he said.
The objective of the exercise, Porges said, was simply to improve diplomacy with Putin, who he said has “difficulty basically feeling calm in complex social settings”, like many large diplomatic functions.
“The idea was to look at these videos,” Porges said, “and see how can you then structure diplomatic settings.” Putin’s face is “relatively flat in social settings”, he said, and “if the upper part of their face doesn’t show much emotion, it means they’re not really even there”.
“It wasn’t an exuberant face of engagement. It wasn’t a Bill Clinton,” he said.
Porges’s conclusion was a pragmatic one: to have more productive meetings with Putin, speak with him in small groups and quiet, private settings. Putin showed behaviors and facial expressions that suggest “little asocial qualities” shared by people with autistic disorders, he said, but also possessed by many people without autistic disorders, including combat veterans, trauma survivors and your everyday awkward neighbor.
“It doesn’t mean those people have autism,” Porges said.
Connors’ findings were less circumspect, although she admitted limitations without brain scans. She wrote that Putin’s “neurological development was significantly interrupted in infancy” and that he “carries a neurological abnormality”.
A self-described “consultant” on the report, cardiothoracic surgeon A Thomas Pezzella, chose not to describe his own contribution to the research, saying: “Brenda did most of the work.”
That work also suggested that Putin may have suffered a stroke, possibly in utero, which affected his ability to speak and left him jerking and seeming to drag the right side of his body. In 2013, many noted that Putin suddenly seemed to struggle with English, a language he has spoken and sung in many times before. In a 2005 interview with the Atlantic, Connors said of the Russian leader’s judo hobby: “He is like that ice skater who had a club foot and became an Olympic skater.”
Connors also compared his movement and psychology to a reptile’s – “they patrol their borders and if an alien enters, lunge reflexively” – and struck a note of pathos and admiration regarding his supposed injuries, writing that “this is a deep, old, profound loss that the has learned to cope with magnificently”.
Connors concluded that Putin did not crawl as an infant, had likely always had a strange stare and had a “sense of self [that] is a work in progress”.
She also considered Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s prime minister and former president, to be an “action man” both “inept” at sharing ideas and who “since adolescence … has exhibited a physical armoring or disunity which inhibits harmonious movement”.
The Naval War College declined to provide the Guardian with a phone number for Connors, who created the reports for the Office of Net Assessment (ONA), a secretive, long-term thinktank operated within the Pentagon.
A Pentagon spokesperson, Lt Col Valerie Henderson, told the Guardian the reports “have not informed any policy decisions by the Department of Defense”.
Henderson said Connors has since contributed more research for ONA.
Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, another consultant on the research and the founder of the School for Body-Mind Centering, “an integrated and embodied approach to body and consciousness”, was not immediately available for comment.
In 2012 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the rate of autism diagnoses rose 20% between 2006 and 2008. Experts have warned against the dangers of grouping people who struggle socially with those who have genuine disorders.
The label of Asperger’s, in particular, has been tossed in the direction of many accomplished people, including Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffett. In 2012, the American Psychiatric Association decided to change the way it defines the disorder.

Lavrov: US escalated Ukraine crisis at every stage & blamed Russia

Published time: February 07, 2015 11:19
Edited time: February 07, 2015 13:15
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov addresses during the 51st Munich Security Conference at the 'Bayerischer Hof' hotel in Munich February 7, 2015. (Reuters/Michael Dalder)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov addresses during the 51st Munich Security Conference at the 'Bayerischer Hof' hotel in Munich February 7, 2015. (Reuters/Michael Dalder)
At every stage of the Ukrainian crisis Washington has been taking steps that “only promoted further aggravation of the situation,” Russian FM Sergey Lavrov said at the Munich Security Conference.
Follow RT's LIVE UPDATES on Munich Security Conference
The West connives to justify Kiev’s military operation in eastern Ukraine, which involves the use of internationally prohibited munitions, such as cluster weapons, the head of the Russian delegation in Munich pointed out.
“We cannot understand why in Afghanistan, Yemen and Mali the West is calling on the governments to hold talks with the opposition, in some cases even with extremists, whereas in regard to the Ukrainian crisis, the West is indulging Kiev in its military operation,” Lavrov said.
However, there is every chance the peace talks in Moscow could unravel the conflict in Ukraine, he added, saying that Russia will persist in pursuing the peace process.
“Russia is set to promote the peace process in Ukraine.We consistently stand against further warring, we advocate withdrawal of heavy weapons and initiating direct talks between Kiev and the militia in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions,” Russia’s Foreign Minister stressed.
Russia, Germany and France are ready to become guarantors of the agreements that could be achieved between the protagonists in the Ukraine crisis, Sergey Lavrov believes.
“If the main participants of the Minsk peace process, the Ukrainian authorities and the representatives of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, come to an understanding on every article of the Minsk agreements, I’m absolutely sure that Russia will be there to secure the guarantees of these agreements,” he said.
“No matter where: in the OSCE or the UN Security Council, I’m certain that both Germany and France are also ready to provide such guarantees, too.”
The Russian Foreign Minister once again stressed there is no military solution to the Ukrainian crisis.
“This was proved last summer when the situation on the battlefield forced [Kiev] to sign the Minsk agreement. It is being proved now that another attempt to gain a military victory is withering away.”
Moscow needs a normal relationship with the EU and the US, yet the strategic partnership with EU has “failed the test of durability,” Lavrov stated. In turn, the US is “always trying to shoulder the blame on Russia in complicated situations created by themselves.”
Sergey Lavrov told the 51st Munich Security Conference on Saturday that Moscow is well aware of the US’s real role in the Ukrainian crisis.
“The US made it public it brokered the transit of power in Ukraine. But we know perfectly well what exactly happened, who discussed candidates for the future Ukrainian government on the phone, who was at Maidan, and what is going on (in Ukraine) right now,” Lavrov said.
No Russian military or other experts participated in those events, Lavrov said, noting that Moscow would like to see “the people of Ukraine restoring unity on the basis of national dialogue.”
As for the re-unification of the Crimea Peninsula with Russia, Lavrov pointed out that this happened through the self-determination of the Crimean population.
“In Crimea what happened complies with the UN Charter on self-determination,” the minister said. “The UN Charter has several principles, and the right of a nation for self-determination has a key position.”
The structure of European security has been undermined by the actions of the US and its allies, the head of Russian diplomacy said.
“European security is based on the UN Charter and Helsinki Declaration principles, long sabotaged by the actions of the US and its allies.”

Hollande: If lasting Ukraine peace not found 'scenario is war'

French President Hollande calls for broader autonomy for E.Ukraine

Published time: February 07, 2015 10:31
Edited time: February 07, 2015 13:31

French President Francois Hollande (Reuters/Alain Jocard)
French President Francois Hollande (Reuters/Alain Jocard)

The Franco-German peace initiative could be the last ditch attempt to end the war in Ukraine, French President Francois Hollande said. German Chancellor Angela Merkel believes the crisis cannot be solved militarily.
Hollande described the peace talks he and Merkel held with the presidents of Russia and Ukraine this week as “one of the last chances” for peace.

"If we don't find not just a compromise but a lasting peace agreement, we know perfectly well what the scenario will be. It has a name, it's called war," Hollande told journalists in the city of Tulle in central France, according to Reuters.

Earlier on Saturday, Angela Merkel was sharing her vision of the possible solution to the Ukraine crisis at the Munich Security Conference.

The Ukrainian crisis cannot be resolved militarily,” she said.

Tsipras to start presenting government's policy statement on Sunday

First entry: 6 February 2015 - 12:04 Athens, 10:04 GMT
Last update: 03:00 Athens, 01:00 GMTPolitics
Tsipras to start presenting government's policy statement on Sunday
The new Greek government will start presenting its long-awaited policy statements on Sunday at 18:00 local time (1600GMT), government sources said after the end of the first cabinet meeting late on Thursday.
During the meeting, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras briefed ministers on the meetings he held with the leaders of France, Italy and Cyprus and on his talks with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels, the same sources said.
Ministers also evaluated ECB’s move on Wednesday and discussed the views of ministers on the policy statements.
The premier will present the policy statements in a speech on Sunday but the process is expected to be completed on Tuesday night.
Concerning today’s meeting between Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble, the government will be briefed extensively by the minister and Deputy Minister of International Economic Relations, Efklidis Tsakalotos.
"We keep the positive elements from this meeting, we know there are disagreements but we are optimistic that there will be a mutually beneficial solution," the source said. The cabinet will convene again on Saturday.

UNSC holds session on latest Kosovo report

NEW YORK -- The UN Security Council on Friday held a session dedicated to Kosovo, where the latest report by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was presented.
First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic represented Serbia during the meeting.
Dacic said on Friday that Serbia expects the political vacuum to be overcome now that the government in Pristina has been constituted, which should contribute to the continuation of implementation of agreements reached so far in the Brussels dialogue.

"We expect the continuation of the high-level dialogue in Brussels on February 9 to deliver an additional incentive to the launched process of normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina," Dacic said.

He called on political leaders in the province to invest additional efforts in the continuation of the dialogue, primarily with regard to the best interests of the population in Kosovo-Metohija, now that the political process in Pristina has been unblocked and the conditions for such a step have been created.

The Serbian minister said that Belgrade expects the EU to continue facilitating the dialogue with Pristina through its active engagement.

"We believe that the commitment to European integration constitutes the main driving force in the normalization of the Belgrade-Pristina relations, " the Serbian foreign minister said.

He underscored that the Serbian government will continue investing active efforts in the implementation of the Brussels agreement with a view to ensuring peace, economic prosperity and reconciliation.

He expressed the satisfaction with the fact that the report filed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has recognised the importance of constitution of the Community of Serb municipalities which has been defined as a key point in the immediate continuation of the implementation of the Brussels agreement.

Dacic underscored that the return of internally displaced persons, position of the Serbian Orthodox Church and property issues will remain the key matters for the Republic of Serbia in the continuation of the dialogue with Pristina.

According to him, the essence of the process of normalization of relations lies in identification of the right answers to the questions that pose a burden to the life of citizens in Kosovo and Metohija and prevent full respect for their basic rights.

This can only be achieved through a dialogue based on sincere appreciation of the needs and interests of the other side and the willingness to compromise, Dacic said and added that the participation of Serbia in the political life should also contribute to this end.

Dacic said that the recent dismissal of Minister of Communities and Returns of the Serb List Aleksandar Jablanovic and the protest that preceded his dismissal create an atmosphere of hatred towards Serbs and give ground to an additional feeling of distrust and insecurity.

An atmosphere of political instability and an anti-Serb campaign have been created, which is contrary to the goals of the dialogue in Brussels, he noted.

Dacic qualified as unacceptable any search for a solution to the issue of property of the Trepca mining complex that would be conducted outside the frameworks of the Brussels agreement.

We need to make sure that all activities concerning privatization in Kosovo and Metohija are restored to the valid legal frameworks, he underscored and noted that any solution to the issue of the Trepca mine other than that defined within the Brussels agreement would be unacceptable for Serbia.

Dacic noted that the Kosovo Privatization Agency is conducting the privatization processes that are contrary to the international and European conventions on human rights, and added that the tendency for privatization of public and socially-owned companies is particularly pronounced in environments with majority Serb population.

A special reason for concern lies in the attempt of the provincial government to adopt amendments to the law on public enterprises without prior consultations with representatives of the Serb community, Dacic said and noted that this would violate the agreement according to which the property should be discussed in Brussels with the mediation by the European Chamber and European Commission.

Dacic underscored that the presence of KFOR in the province is necessary and that further reduction of troops must be avoided.

Pointing to the need for introduction of additional measures for protection of the Serb cultural and religious heritage, Dacic recalled the repeated appearance of the graffiti of the Islamic State on the facilities of the Visoki Decani Monastery, noting that Serbia will continue with its determined actions in countering terrorism.

"We expect the international mission in Kosovo and the local interim institutions to give their contribution to the shared fight which has global importance," Dacic said.

As one of the co-sponsors of the UNSC Resolution 2178, Serbia is implementing all the necessary measures to counter terrorism funding and organization of terrorist activities and the increasingly widespread phenomenon of recruitment of foreign mercenaries who are joining armed terrorist organizations in the Near East, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the Serbian minister said.

On this occasion, Dacic also underscored that suspicion concerning the impartiality of the Kosovo judiciary is further reinforced by the case of Oliver Ivanovic as one of the political leaders of Serbs who has been kept in prison for a year now although the court procedures against him are still in the early stages.

Dacic also commended the efforts invested in the investigation into the allegations included in the report filed by rapporteur Dick Marty concerning the inhumane treatment of people and illegal trafficking of human organs in Kosovo.


Kosovo Foreign Minister Hashim Thaci said during a UN Security Council (UNSC) meeting Friday that the Mining, Metallurgical and Chemical Combine Trepca belonged to Kosovo.

Trepca is Kosovo’s and Kosovo will decide on Trepca, Thaci said during the UNSC quarterly meeting on the situation in Kosovo and Metohija.

A solution to this issue has been postponed since the international administration in Kosovo was not ready to deal with political pressures that it would entail, Thaci said.

Serbia’s Development Fund owns a 58 percent stake in Trepca and the rest is owned by a number of Serbian companies save for a small stake owned by the employees.

For that reason, the Serbian government last month sharply opposed Pristina’s intention to adopt legislation to enable itself take over Trepca, and insisted that the issue, as well as other property issues, had to be resolved through talks in Brussels.

Commenting on the recent dismissal of Aleksandar Jablanovic, a Serb who served as minister for communities and returns in Pristina’s government, Thaci said that he had not been replaced because he was a Serb, but because he had not been professional enough.

Serbia took advantage of that to launch a political attack on Kosovo, Thaci said.

He expressed concern about what he called the trend of the Serbian side to drag out the implementation of the Brussels agreement and to interfere with the internal affairs of Kosovo.

Speaking about the issue of mass illegal migration of Kosovo citizens to EU countries in recent years, Thaci said that they were “fleeing” Kosovo because of an absence of a legal framework to enable them to “legally” emigrate to the EU.

He stated that Kosovo was preparing, in coordination with its Euro-Atlantic partners, for setting up a Kosovo army, "a professional and multiethnic military that would be ready to contribute to regional peace and global security."

Thaci called on all UN member-states that have not recognized Kosovo "to do so."

Γιατί Βορείου Ηπείρου, συνδέεται με την τύχη του Κοσσυφοπεδίου?



Αρχικά, η κατάσταση που είναι τώρα το Κοσσυφοπέδιο, η Βόρεια Ήπειρος, θα πρέπει να έχει αυτονομία ...

Oρισμένα θέματα που πρέπει να γνωρίζουν την ελληνική κοινότητα της Βορείου Ηπείρου και της Χιμάρας.

λύση στην Βόρειο Ήπειρο,,, όπως Σημίτη, όπως ο Βενιζέλος, καθώς ο Παπανδρέου, Σαμαρά ως,,, ή κάστα των πολιτικών όλα αυτά τα 20 χρόνια, δεν έχει γίνει.

Το ερώτημα είναι εάν οι συγκρούσεις στα Βαλκάνια, προσπαθώντας να αλλάξει τα σύνορα, αρχής γενομένης με την αναγνώριση του Κοσσυφοπεδίου, ή απόπειρα ενοποίησης με την Αλβανία,, ... συνεχίζει με "Domino Effect",,, ............ ... τότε δεν θα υπάρχει Ομόνοια, αλλά Βορειοηπειρωτικό ζήτημα.

Η ανεξαρτησία του Κοσόβου, αποτυγχάνει, επειδή η ΕΕ δεν συμμετέχουν από την Ελλάδα εξαιτίας του.

Αυτό σημαίνει: Σχέδιο του ΝΑΤΟ

1. ή εάν υπάρχει, το Κοσσυφοπέδιο θα παραμείνει χωρίς ευρωπαϊκή προοπτική, όπως φαίνεται, στη συνέχεια, θα ενταχθούν στην Αλβανία με το δημοψήφισμα, τότε η Βόρειος Ήπειρος θα διοργανώσει δημοψήφισμα για την ένωση με την Ελλάδα.

2. ή αν τυχόν εκρήγνυται στη βία στα Βαλκάνια, στη συνέχεια, τη Βόρειο Ήπειρο θα ασχολείται αυτόματα κάτω από την προστασία του από την Ελλάδα.

Η Ελλάδα πρέπει να προστατεύσει επειγόντως Βορείου Ηπείρου από:

1. ληστεία των εδαφών από τους Αλβανούς, όπως συμβαίνει στη Χιμάρα.
2. ελληνική ιθαγένεια διαδικασία, γρήγορα, από κυβέρνηση.Τσίπρας

Γιατί Βορείου Ηπείρου, συνδέεται με την τύχη του Κοσσυφοπεδίου?


Saturday, February 7, 2015


Αρχικά, η κατάσταση που είναι τώρα το Κοσσυφοπέδιο, η Βόρεια Ήπειρος, θα πρέπει να έχει αυτονομία ...

Oρισμένα θέματα που πρέπει να γνωρίζουν την ελληνική κοινότητα της Βορείου Ηπείρου και της Χιμάρας.

λύση στην Βόρειο Ήπειρο,,, όπως Σημίτη, όπως ο Βενιζέλος, καθώς ο Παπανδρέου, Σαμαρά ως,,, ή κάστα των πολιτικών όλα αυτά τα 20 χρόνια, δεν έχει γίνει.

Το ερώτημα είναι εάν οι συγκρούσεις στα Βαλκάνια, προσπαθώντας να αλλάξει τα σύνορα, αρχής γενομένης με την αναγνώριση του Κοσσυφοπεδίου, ή απόπειρα ενοποίησης με την Αλβανία,, ... συνεχίζει με "Domino Effect",,, ............ ... τότε δεν θα υπάρχει Ομόνοια, αλλά Βορειοηπειρωτικό ζήτημα.

Η ανεξαρτησία του Κοσόβου, αποτυγχάνει, επειδή η ΕΕ δεν συμμετέχουν από την Ελλάδα εξαιτίας του.

Αυτό σημαίνει: Σχέδιο του ΝΑΤΟ

1. ή εάν υπάρχει, το Κοσσυφοπέδιο θα παραμείνει χωρίς ευρωπαϊκή προοπτική, όπως φαίνεται, στη συνέχεια, θα ενταχθούν στην Αλβανία με το δημοψήφισμα, τότε η Βόρειος Ήπειρος θα διοργανώσει δημοψήφισμα για την ένωση με την Ελλάδα.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Source: nearly 200 Balkan mercenaries fighting on Kiev’s side in Ukraine

February 06, 11:41 UTC+3 US private security firm Academi plays the key role in hiring the mercenaries
MOSCOW, February 6. /TASS/. Some 200 mercenaries from Balkan countries are fighting alongside Kiev troops in eastern Ukraine, a military expert familiar with the situation told TASS on Friday.
"Citizens from certain countries of the Balkan region are participating in an armed conflict in Ukraine," the expert said. US private security firm Academi plays the key role in hiring the mercenaries, he said.
Most mercenaries come from Croatia, and also Kosovo, including the former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, who have an experience in armed actions.
"These mercenaries are mainly acting as part of the so-called volunteer battalions," he said.
"According to some estimates, the overall number of the representatives of the countries of the former Yugoslavia who are fighting on the side of Kiev is around 200," he said.
In September, Amnesty International accused battalion fighters in eastern Ukraine of war crimes, which it said are the result of a failure by the Kiev authorities to bring Aidar and other volunteer battalions under control.

Secretary General: Situation in Ukraine is critical, NATO supports peace efforts

  • 06 Feb. 2015
The NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, said the efforts by Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande to find a peaceful solution to the Ukraine crisis are ‘important and urgent’. Mr Stoltenberg opened the Munich Security Conference on Friday (6 February 2015) with a keynote speech together with German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen and Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger. The Secretary General said there was no contradiction between defence and dialogue: “A strong NATO is essential if we are to engage Russia with confidence. A constructive NATO-Russia relationship would benefit the Euro-Atlantic community. And the entire international order. But international rules must be respected – not rewritten. And certainly not violated.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses Munich Security Conference
On the margins of the conference, the Secretary General will hold a range of bilateral meetings including with US Vice-president Joe Biden, US Senator John McCain, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani , Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
On Friday, the Secretary General held bilateral meetings to discuss current security challenges with the President of Slovenia Borut Pahor and the German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen. He also discussed developing NATO's partnerships with the President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö  and with the Prime Minister of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić.

300 Intellectuals and Academics in Support of Greece


by Aggelos Skordas - Feb 6, 2015

Some 300 internationally acclaimed academics and intellectuals from across the globe have signed and published an open letter in support of Greece and Europe, demanding from the European governments, the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to respect the mandate of the Greek people for a new negotiation between the country’s government and its partners in order to agree to a new program and resolve the long-standing debt problem. The open letter was published online on a website founded by journalist and former editor in chief of French daily newspaper Le Monde, Edwy Plenel.

Among others, the letter is signed by economists James Kenneth Galbraith of the University of Texas at Austin, Stephany Griffith-Jones of the Columbia University in New York, Jacques Sapir of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris, psychiatrist Gerald Epstein of the American Institute for Mental Imagery and philosopher/sociologist Dominique Meda of the Universite Paris-Dauphine.

The full letter in English:

We the undersigned call on the governments of Europe, the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF to respect the decision of the Greek people to choose a new course and to engage the new government of Greece in good faith negotiations to resolve the Greek debt.

The government of Greece is correct to insist on new policies because the previous policies have failed. They have not brought economic recovery. They have not brought financial stability. They have not brought jobs or foreign investments. They have stressed and damaged Greek society and weakened Greek institutions. There is therefore no value in that approach and no progress to preserve. We urge Greece’s European partners to accept this reality, without which the new government would have never been elected.

Greece needs immediate humanitarian measures, a higher minimum wage, new jobs, new investments, and steps to restore and improve basic services such as education and healthcare. It needs a stronger and more progressive tax system, less dependent on VAT and better able to tax income and wealth. It needs to fight, punish and root out corruption. The new government needs fiscal space to implement these measures and demonstrate their worth, and it needs continuing financial support from the ECB to stabilize the financial sector in the meanwhile. We urge Greece’s European partners and institutions to provide that fiscal space and support.

The government of Greece is correct to ask for a write-off of debts owed to European partners. These debts are unsustainable and so will not be paid in any event. There is therefore no economic loss involved, for any other nation or its taxpayers, in writing them off. On the contrary, a fresh start for Greece will help bring new activity, income, jobs and profit to its partners. We urge Greece’s creditors to seize this chance, and explain these facts clearly and candidly to their own people.

These issues also engage the future of Europe as a whole. A policy of menace, threats, deadlines, obstinacy and blackmail will demonstrate to all Europeans that the European project will have failed. It will have failed morally, politically and as a matter of economics. We urge Europe’s leaders to reject and condemn all efforts to coerce the government and people of Greece.

Conversely, success for Greece can show the path toward renewed prosperity and stability for Europe, with a new role for democracy and a new openness to elections that bring constructive change. We stand with Greece and with Europe, with democracy and with change. We urge Europe’s leaders to recognize the special basis of Greek decision-making in hard-fought and decisive democratic choice, and to choose the path of realistic assessment and reasonable negotiation.

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S&P downgrades Greece to B-, says time running out on debt deal

First entry: 6 February 2015
S&P downgrades Greece to B-, says time running out on debt deal
Standard & Poor's downgraded Greece's credit rating one notch on Friday and warned of a narrowing window for the government to agree on a new financing program with creditors.
S&P downgraded Greece to "B-" from "B," with a negative outlook.
The downgrade reflects our view that the liquidity constraints weighing on Greece's banks and its economy have narrowed the timeframe during which the new government can reach an agreement on a financing programme with its official creditors," S&P said in part in its statement.
"Although the newly elected Greek government has been in power for less than two weeks, we believe its limited cash buffers and approaching debt redemptions to official preferred creditors constrain its negotiating flexibility," S&P said.
The agency also warned that the European Central Bank's decision to stop accepting Greek debt as collateral risked exacerbating a steady run on Greek banks.
In a worst-case scenario, the agency said, that bank run could lead to capital controls and the loss of access to emergency financing, which could lead to the long-feared "Grexit," or Greek exit from the euro.

Hundreds of Albanians detained at Serbia-Hungary border

BELGRADE -- 290 persons, mostly Albanians from Kosovo, have been arrested in the past 48 hours as they were attempting to illegally cross from Serbia to Hungary.
A Serbian border policeman (Beta, file)
A Serbian border policeman (Beta, file)
This was announced by Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic during a news conference in Belgrade on Friday.
256 misdemeanor and 15 criminal complaints have been filed related to people smuggling charges, and 15 vehicles confiscated, he said, and added that "anyone abusing the freedom of movement is committing a violation."

Stefanovic announced that he would meet in Belgrade on Monday with the director of the German police to discuss the problem of "illegal migrants and fake asylum seekers."

In recent days, ethnic Albanians from Kosovo have been leaving the territory in great numbers over the administrative line checkpoint of Merdare between Kosovo and central Serbia. From there, they are transported to the town of Subotica in northern Serbia, near the border with Hungary.

In a report earlier this week, Reuters said that "the European Union is experiencing a steep rise in the number of Kosovo citizens smuggling themselves into the affluent bloc."

According to the report, "10,000 filed asylum in Hungary in just one month this year compared to 6,000 for the whole of 2013."

This came "following a relaxation of travel rules" allowing Kosovo's residents to "reach EU borders via Serbia," the agency said.

During the news conference on Friday, held after he signed a readmission agreement protocol with the Swedish ambassador in Belgrade, Stefanovic also revealed that there are currently some 60,000 requests filed by Albanians from Kosovo to receive Serbian passports.

The minister said he interpreted this as "their desire to recognize Serbia as their country. "

Seven years ago, ethnic Albanians in Kosovo unilaterally declared independence, but Serbia considers the proclamation a violation of its Constitution and territorial integrity.

Russia accused of "redrawing map of Europe"

BRUSSELS -- U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden said in Brussels that his country and the EU "must work together to confront Russia's attempts to redraw the map of Europe."
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
"While Ukraine fights for survival, Russia sends tanks and mercenaries," Biden said as he addressed reporters together with the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk.
Biden then accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of "systematically violating the ceasefire agreements and the agreement that was reached last September in Minsk."

"We need to jointly oppose attempts by Russia to redraw the map of Europe, because that is exactly what Putin is trying to do," said he.

Tusk said that the EU and the U.S. "stand shoulder to shoulder" and will persist in supporting "the territorial integrity of Ukraine" and the pressure on Russia to accept a peaceful solution.

"We must prevent Russia from dividing the Western world," he said.

Both high officials pointed to the importance of joint and coordinated fight against terrorism and extremism and the threat of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Biden was scheduled to later on Friday meet with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Frederica Mogherini, and European Parliament President Martin Schulz.

As was announced by the European Commission, the U.S. vice-president and his interlocutors will not address reporters afterwards "due to a lack of time."

Biden said he was keen to encourage European partners to as soon as possible finalize the negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that have been ongoing for several years, designed to "remove tariff and other barriers between the U.S. and the EU."

"This agreement is good for the people on both sides of the Atlantic, and I would like the EU to convince me that it is genuinely interested to carry it out," said Biden.

There is fear in some circles in the EU, especially in the European Parliament, that TTIP would give a free hand to large corporations to limit social rights and environmental standards that apply in the EU.

Tusk noted that the European Council in December concluded that the TTIP negotiations should be concluded by the end of this year.

60,000 Albanians apply for Serbian passports

BELGRADE -- Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said on Friday that the authorities have received about 60,000 passport applications from Kosovo Albanians.
“We have more than 60,000 applications from Albanians from Kosovo and Metohija for passports of our country,” Stefanovic said after he and Swedish Ambassador Christer Asp signed a protocol on readmission of persons, based on an agreement between Serbia and the European Union.
Stefanovic told reporters that he interpreted the passport applications as the desire of Kosovo Albanians to recognize Serbia as their country. He also revealed that hundreds of Albanians from Kosovo have been prevented from illegally leaving Serbia for the EU during the past 48 hours.

The protocol signed today could serve to send some 1,500 immigrants back to Serbia.

"At this point that is the number (of people) that are applying for asylum in Sweden. Out of that number, between 95-96 percent return," Stefanovic said.

He explained that Serbia signed the readmission agreement in Brussels in 2007, and was signing agreements with most EU countries based on that document, with the goal of "enabling for better fight against these occurrences, that are increasingly becoming a problem."

Furthermore, according to Stefanovic, the signing of the protocol "testifies to Serbia's dedication to EU integrations and the desire to stop fake asylum seekers."

Ambassador Asp told reporters that Sweden, that has "a large Serb diaspora," has had "exceptionally good cooperation" with Serbia for many years when it comes to the immigration issue.

According to him, the number of persons seeking asylum has reduced significantly - and he credited "to a large extent" the willingness for cooperation exhibited by the Serbian Interior Ministry and the minister personally.

The diplomat said that Sweden considers Serbia "a safe country," supports its EU membership bid, and hopes for continued cooperation.

Jahjaga, Mustafa discuss measures to prevent migration of Kosovo citizens

PRISTINA – Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga and Prime Minister Isa Mustafa conferred with officials of Pristina institutions concerning the measures to prevent illegal migration of Kosovo citizens.


Last night’s talks covered the reasons for illegal migrations, strengthening of the judiciary in the prevention of activities that bring profit to criminal rings and in the implementation of steps aimed at economic recovery of Kosovo and opening new jobs, the president’s cabinet released.

According to the release, the talks also covered the ways to tackle the issue of illegal migration by raising awareness among Kosovo citizens about the policy of EU countries toward asylum-seekers.

Jahjaga and Mustafa met with Deputy Prime Minister Kujtim Salja, Finance Minister Avdulah Hoti, Infrastructure Minister Lufti Zarku, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Petrit Selimi, Deputy Minister for European Integration Ramadan Ilazi and Police Director Spend Madzuni.

The Kosovo president and prime minister previously met with ambassadors of EU member countries to discuss cooperation concerning prevention of illegal migration of Kosovo citizens.

The Kosovo parliament adopted on Friday the resolution to prevent illegal migration of Kosovo citizens.

According to reports issued by Pristina media, over 40,000 citizens left Kosovo since the government coalition of the Democratic Alliance of Kosovo and the Democratic Party of Kosovo was constituted less than two months ago.

The European Asylum Support Office released that over 70,000 Kosovo citizens applied for asylum in EU countries over the past five years.

Reuters noted that the EU recorded a sudden increase in the number of Kosovo citizens entering EU countries by illegal routes, the greatest number of whom are headed for Hungary where as many as 10,000 citizens filed asylum application in January 2015, compared to 6,000 asylum requests filed in 2013.

The Hungarian government released that almost 13,000 asylum applications have arrived since the beginning of this year alone compared to 43,000 requests received in 2014.

Putin meets Merkel, Hollande behind closed doors in Moscow


Published time: February 06, 2015 17:55
German Chancellor Angela Merkel gets into a car upon her arrival at Moscow's Vnukovo airport February 6, 2015. (Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin)
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French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Moscow on Friday evening. They headed straight to the Kremlin for talks on the Ukrainian crisis with President Vladimir Putin behind closed doors.
On Thursday, Hollande and Merkel held a meeting with President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev. It followed the Ukrainian leader’s talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry who arrived in Kiev to discuss the possibility of providing lethal aid to Ukraine. He said US President Obama will take the decision next week.On Saturday, US Vice President Joe Biden is set to attend the Munich Security conference, where he will present the military aid plan.
Media reports earlier suggested that Hollande and Merkel’s visit to Moscow was a snap decision made without consulting Washington. After Hollande said on Thursday that “together with Angela Merkel we have decided to take a new initiative,” French media hinted that the decision to visit Moscow came as an attempt to present a viewpoint on solving the Ukrainian crisis that differs from the US one.
READ MORE: Putin peace plan is basis of Hollande-Merkel initiative on Ukraine – reports
Le Nouvel Observateur reported that this “historic initiative” on Hollande and Merkel’s part was preceded by “secret” talks between Paris, Berlin and Moscow. The French weekly also suggested that the EU leaders are meeting Putin “to get ahead of the Americans, who are trying to impose their solution to the problem on Westerners: a transfer of weapons to Ukraine.”
READ MORE: Hollande, Merkel go to Moscow to discuss Ukraine without consulting US – report
The US will provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine and a further $1 billion of economic aid later in 2015, if Kiev carries on with its reforms, Kerry said at a joint press briefing with Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk on Thursday.

About 60,000 Kosovo Albanians want Serbian passports


BELGRADE – Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said Friday that Serbia had received about 60,000 passport applications from Kosovo Albanians.

“We have more than 60,000 applications from Albanians from Kosovo-Metohija for passports of our country,” Stefanovic said after signing a protocol on the implementation of the agreement between Serbia and the European Union on the readmission of persons with Swedish Ambassador to Serbia Christer Asp.
Stefanovic told reporters that he interpreted the situation as a desire of the Kosovo Albanians for Serbia to be their country.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Greek PM Tsipras: Hero or Clown? Cartoonists Can’t Decide

tsipras baby

by Philip Chrysopoulos - Feb 5, 2015

Newly-elected Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is an enigma to Greek people, the European Union and those who follow politics around the world. The 40-year-old leader of the leftist SYRIZA party has won January’s Greek election promising crisis-stricken Greek people debt relief, an end to austerity and growth through state spending.
After forming Greece’s first left-wing government, Tsipras announced that Greece will renegotiate the country’s 240-biillion-euro bailout program, thereby causing an uproar in international markets and making European leaders nervous over the continent’s economy. Many Greeks fear that he may lead the country out of the Eurozone.

Tsipras is an unconventional leader: he’s an atheist, lives with a partner instead of a wife, refuses to wear a tie. No wonder he became fodder for political cartoonists across the globe:

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Explaining Greece's drama in 5 key points

Greece's new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Monday that eurozone debt was a crisis for the whole continent as he launched a European tour to rally support for his campaign for debt forgiveness. Video provided by AFP Newslook
Greece's new leftist government is in full swing trying to secure new terms for the international bailout lifeline that has kept the country afloat for over half a decade. Most Greeks are in favor of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras negotiating fresh concessions, but his promises at home are causing unease abroad, and yet another Greek drama. Here are 5 key points to help you understand the situation.
Late Wednesday, the European Central Bank, one of Greece's three main creditors for its $272 billion bailout — the European Commission and International Monetary Fund complete the so-called "troika" — piled on the pressure after it said Greek banks would no longer be able to access ECB credit by using Greek government bonds as collateral. Restricting Greece's access to this type of credit, although engineered as part of its bailout deal, is significant because it sends a massive signal from Greece's lenders to Tsipras that they are determined to force the country to reach a compromise about any new potential debt terms.
STOCKS THURSDAY: How U.S., other markets are doing
Greece is due to receive the final tranche of its loans from the "troika" on Feb. 28. Ahead of that, Tsipras and Yanis Varoufakis, his colorful new finance minister (he shuns ties and rides a motorcycle to cabinet meetings) said they would refuse that final $8 billion installment unless Greece could get more equitable conditions that would allow it to trim harsh austerity measures and start spending again. Now that the ECB has moved to block Greece's bank's from accessing credit linked to government bonds, effective Feb.11, yet more financial force is being exerted on Greece's leaders to get a deal done before the end of the month.
An economy and livelihoods in shambles, basically. Although Greece technically exited its six-year recession in the middle of last year when it saw modest economic growth, its GDP is now about a quarter below where it was at the start of the financial crisis in 2008. Unemployment has cratered to 25%, rising to 50% for the young. Over 44% of Greeks in 2013 had income that fell below the official poverty line ($756 per person, per month), according to estimates by the Public Policy Analysis Group of the Athens University of Economics and Business. Its public sector has been decimated and many have no access to health insurance. A study by the BMJ Open medical journal found that suicides in Greece hit their highest level in 30 years in the wake of the "troika"-mandated austerity programs. Total suicides rose 35% in 2011, the year severe cutbacks were first introduced.
They are down sharply in Athens (as much as 10% before recovering slightly) on Thursday but more generally they are unsteady and a little confused rather than overtly fearful. In intraday trading, Germany's DAX index shed 0.1%, Britain's FTSE 100 was down 0.5% and France's CAC 40 declined 0.4%. But stock futures pointed to gains on Wall Street and the euro was actually up against the dollar by 0.2%. That's not to say investors aren't concerned about a Greece-creditor collision course. "This is clearly the ECB signaling to the Greek government: You're going to have to talk to the troika and get a deal," Jacob Kirkegaard, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told the Associated Press. "Otherwise, really bad things are going to happen." Kirkegaard was commenting after Varoufakis met Wednesday with ECB President Mario Draghi.
Varoufakis met Thursday with Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany's finance minister, a major critic of Greece's new government. Schaeuble represents the view that Greece has not done enough to push through structural reforms such as privatizing major infrastructure that would allow it — the idea is — to raise funds and pay down its debts. "We didn't discuss Greece's debt schedule and haircut. We discussed how to end this seemingly never-ending crisis," Varoufakis said after the two men talked. Meanwhile, Greece is adamant that it will keep on keeping on with its agenda to get rid of harsh austerity measures crippling the economy. Greece said it won't be blackmailed by its lenders and neither it is blackmailing. That will be further tested as Greece's parliament reopens and starts debating new legislation. So it's High Noon in Athens and Brussels.

30,000 troops, 6 rapid units: NATO increases military power in Eastern Europe

Published time: February 05, 2015 14:49
Edited time: February 05, 2015 16:43
Members of Poland's special commando unit Lubliniec disembark from a Mi-17 helicopter during the "Noble Sword-14" NATO international tactical exercise at the land forces training centre in Oleszno, near Drawsko Pomorskie, northwest Poland (Reuters / Kacper Pempel)
Members of Poland's special commando unit Lubliniec disembark from a Mi-17 helicopter during the "Noble Sword-14" NATO international tactical exercise at the land forces training centre in Oleszno, near Drawsko Pomorskie, northwest Poland (Reuters / Kacper Pempel)
The NATO Response Force in Europe might increase to 30,000 troops from the current 13,000, said the alliance’s secretary general ahead of a defense ministers meeting in Brussels. Most of the RDF troops are set to be stationed near to Russia’s borders.
“I expect that the ministers will agree on several important elements of a package that increases our collective defense,” said Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on the eve of a meeting of the alliance’s 28 defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
The UK has already announced plans to deploy 1,000 troops and four multirole Typhoon fighter jets to join the Response Force in Eastern Europe.
The spearhead of that force will be 5,000 servicemen, distributed among six compact command centers in Eastern Europe, with about only 50 officers in each.
"It is a response to what we have seen from Russia over a period of time and it is in full accordance with our international obligations," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters.

READ MORE: NATO to deploy extra troops in 6 E. European member states
These six Rapid Deployment Force units to be stationed in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania are expected to be capable of rapidly reinforcing the region” in response to any threat from Russia,” Reuters reports.
“In Ukraine, violence is getting worse and the crisis is deepening. Russia continues to disregard international rules and to support the separatists,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters before the meeting.
When necessary, this force could be deployed in two days. The remaining 25,000 will be operational within a week.

READ MORE: Surprise drill puts over 100,000 troops through their paces in Russia’s Far East
Last September, Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania agreed to form a joint military force (LitPolUkrBrig) to take part in the first joint military drill in 2015.
READ MORE: Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania to form joint military force
The Ukrainian parliament ratified the document on Wednesday.
The brigade of approximately 4,500 servicemen (3,500 – Polish, 545 – Ukrainian and up to 350 Lithuanians) is slated to become the UN and EU peacekeeping force, or alternatively form a basis of a NATO battle group in the region bordering Russia.
The purpose of creating that kind of an international brigade raises concerns, Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said at a media briefing on Thursday.
Ukraine’s internal conflict has already been internationalized to a great extent and adding the element of joint armed forces to it is absolutely counterproductive and would endanger the situation in the region, Lukashevich said.