Posts Tagged William Hague

Fox warns against failure to stop ISIS

Liam foxFailure to defeat the extremists will have “catastrophic” consequences for security in the Middle East and at home, the former defence secretary warns.

In an article Dr Fox, urges ministers to be prepared to send British military assets to the region to help any American-led attacks on fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Isis).

However, he warns that any assistance provided by the west must be as part of a political deal for a major change in the policy of the “inept” Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

The Iraqi government has fuelled sectarian resentment by failing to embrace both Sunni and Kurdish politicians in its ranks, he says.

The Syrian civil war has drawn radicalised youths from around the world and destabilised the region.

“When young jihadists develop the habit for hating it can be hard to break,” Dr Fox warns.

“Our security forces know that many do not lack the will to kill us, merely the capability. We will have to redouble our efforts to ensure that remains the case.”

His comments follow warnings that up to 500 British born fighters have travelled to Syria and Iraq to take part in Islamist fighting.

“It is clear that the Isis must be defeated,” Dr Fox writes. “The shocking pictures of mass, summary executions and the brutality of both their methods and beliefs would be reason enough to want to stop them.

“The risks that the creation of a fanatical Islamic state, extending from Lebanon to the borders of Iran, would create merely add to the imperative.

“On one hand, there is a real possibility of creating a sectarian clash across the region, whose political and economic effects would be felt quickly round the world, not least as it would likely spark a huge rise in the oil price, with all the consequences we have come to know and fear.

“On the other, the idea of extremists waging successful jihad and then returning to their countries of origin, including the United Kingdom, should concentrate the minds of both government and citizens.”

He says it is “highly likely” that the US will be required to intervene with force to stop the Isis threat but warned that the UK “should not rule out acting where we could provide specific help”.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, has said there will be no role for British military in the Iraq crisis.



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Putin moves forward with plan to annex Crimea

Vladimir PutinRussian President Vladimir Putin, defying Ukrainian protests and Western sanctions, announced on Tuesday that Russia would move forward with procedures to annex Ukraine’s Crimean region.

Putin signed an order “to approve the draft treaty between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Crimea on adopting the Republic of Crimea into the Russian Federation”. The order indicated the president would sign the treaty with Crimea’s Russian-installed leader, who is in Moscow to request incorporation into Russia, but it gave no date.

The move followed a disputed referendum in Crimea on Sunday, staged under Russian military occupation, in which a Soviet-style 97 percent of voters were declared to have voted to return to Russian rule, after 60 years as part of Ukraine.

By pressing ahead with steps to dismember Ukraine against its will, Putin raised the stakes in the most serious East-West crisis since the end of the Cold War.

On Monday, the United States and the European Union imposed personal sanctions on a small group of officials from Russia and Ukraine accused of involvement in Moscow’s military seizure of the Black Sea peninsula, most of whose 2 million residents are ethnic Russians.

Leonid Slutsky, one of the Russian politicians hit by the U.S. and EU visa ban and assets freeze, said in the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, that Crimea’s decision was historic. “Today we see justice and truth reborn,” he said.

Japan joined the sanctions on Tuesday, announcing the suspension of talks on investment promotion and visa liberalisation with Russia.

“The recognition of Crimean independence by Russia violates Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and is regrettable,” Japanese Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

Putin was to address a special joint session of the Russian parliament on the issue on Tuesday, aides said.

Russian forces took control of Crimea in late February following the toppling of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich after deadly clashes between riot police and protesters trying to overturn his decision to spurn a trade and cooperation deal with the EU and seek closer ties with Russia.

Despite strongly worded condemnations of the Crimean referendum, Western nations were cautious in their first practical steps against Moscow, seeking to leave the door open for a diplomatic solution.

U.S. President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on 11 Russians and Ukrainians blamed for the military seizure, including Yanukovich, and Vladislav Surkov and Sergei Glazyev, two aides to Putin.

Putin himself, suspected in the West of trying to resurrect as much as possible of the former Soviet Union under Russian leadership, was not on the blacklist.

Amid fears that Russia might move into eastern Ukraine, Obama warned Moscow on Monday that what he called further provocations would only increase Russia’s isolation and exact a greater toll on its economy.

“If Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine, we stand ready to impose further sanctions,” he said.

A senior U.S. official said Obama’s order cleared the way to sanction people associated with the arms industry and targets “the personal wealth of cronies” of the Russian leadership.

In Brussels, the EU’s 28 foreign ministers agreed to subject 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials to visa restrictions and asset freezes for their roles in the events. They included three Russian military commanders in Crimea and districts bordering on Ukraine.

There were only three names in common on the U.S. and European lists – Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov, Crimean parliament Speaker Vladimir Konstantinov and Slutsky, chairman of the Russian Duma’s committee on the Russian-led Commonwealth of Independent States, or CIS, grouping former Soviet republics. The EU blacklisted Yanukovich earlier this month.

The U.S. list appeared to target higher-profile Russian officials close to Putin, including deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, while the EU went for mid-ranking officials who may have been more directly involved on the ground.

Rogozin retorted that the measures would not affect those without assets abroad.

Washington and Brussels said more measures could follow in the coming days if Russia does not back down and instead formally annexes Crimea.

The EU also said its leaders would sign the political part of an association agreement with Ukraine on Friday, in a gesture of support for the fragile Kiev coalition brought to power by last month’s uprising. The accord does not include any commitment to eventual EU membership, on which the bloc’s member states are divided.

Putin has declared that Russia has the right to defend, militarily if necessary, Russian citizens and Russian speakers living in former Soviet republics, raising concerns that Moscow may intervene elsewhere.

Putin has repeatedly accused the new leadership in Kiev of failing to protect Russian-speakers from violent Ukrainian nationalists. Ukraine’s government has accused Moscow of staging provocations in Russian-speaking regions of eastern Ukraine to justify military intervention.

Moscow responded to Western pressure for an international “contact group” to mediate in the crisis by proposing on Monday a “support group” of states. This would push for recognition of the Crimean referendum and urge a new constitution for rump Ukraine that would require it to uphold political and military neutrality.

While a Western diplomat said some of the Russian ideas may offer scope for negotiation, Ukraine’s interim president ruled out ever accepting the annexation of its territory.

A pressing concern for the governments in Kiev and Moscow is the transfer of control of Ukrainian military bases. Many are surrounded by and under control of Russian forces, even though Moscow denies it has troops in the territory beyond facilities it leases for its important Black Sea Fleet.

Crimea’s parliamentary speaker said on Monday Ukrainian military units in the region would be disbanded, though personnel would be allowed to remain on the Black Sea peninsula, Russian news agency Interfax reported.


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Secretary Kerry Plans to Visit Ukraine and Warns Russia

Kerry nbcSecretary of State John Kerry outlined the far-reaching responses the United States and Western allies are considering for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “incredible act of aggression” in Ukraine, including economic sanctions and efforts to reduce Russia’s status as a world power.

“It’s an incredible act of aggression,” Kerry told CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “It is really a stunning, willful choice by President Putin to invade another country.”

Kerry announced Sunday that he’s traveling to Kiev on Tuesday for diplomatic talks. The United States’ top diplomat added that Western powers are fully prepared to isolate Russia for its military incursion into Ukraine. Among the potential responses he outlined were bans on visas, freezing assets, penalties on trade and investment, and a boycott of the Russian-hosted, G-8  economic summit in June.

He even hinted at the removal of Russia from the list of powerful G-8 countries, the U.S., Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia.

Putin is “not going to have a Sochi G-8,” Kerry told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “He may not even remain in the G-8 if this continues. … He’s going to lose on the international stage.”

Kerry’s response follows Russia on Friday sending troops into Ukraine’s Crimea region, amid months of political upheaval in that country that included residents in late February ousting President Viktor Yanukovych.

Kerry said Putin should respect the democratic process through which the Ukrainian people ousted the pro-Russian president and assembled a new government.

President Obama said Friday that the U.S. “will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”

He pressed his case the next day in a 90-minute phone call with Putin, calling Russia’s actions “a clear violation” of Ukraine’s sovereignty and asking for his forces to pull back, according to the White House.

However, the situation appeared to worsen by Sunday with Ukraine’s new prime minister warning his country is “on the brink of disaster,” as hundreds of armed men in trucks and armored vehicles surrounded a Ukrainian military base in Crimea.

Despite Kerry’ strong words Sunday, the Obama administration faces a difficult challenge in finding a response that might deter Putin, who argues the turmoil in neighboring Ukraine poses real threats to the life and health of Russian citizens living there and that Moscow has the right to protect them.

Still, Kerry suggested Putin’s stated motive is a “trumped-up pretext.”

He also said he spoke on Saturday with foreign ministers from the Group of Eight countries and a few other nations, and “every single one of them are prepared to go to the hilt in order to isolate Russia” because of the invasion.

And he suggested American companies “may well want to start thinking twice about whether they want to do business with a country that behaves like this.”

Kerry also said the administration was ready to provide economic assistance “of a major sort” to Ukraine.

He made clear that a military response to counter Russia’s action was unlikely.

“The last thing anybody wants is a military option,” said Kerry, who was also interviewed on ABC’s “This Week.” “We want a peaceful resolution through the normal processes of international relations.”

The U.S. and Europe are not obligated to come to Ukraine’s defense because it does not have full-member status in NATO. Broader international action through the United Nations seems all but impossible because of Russia’s veto power as a permanent member of the Security Council.

Kerry tried to frame the crisis as broader than U.S. versus Russia or East versus West. “We’re not trying to make this a Cold War,” he said. It’s about Ukrainians “fighting against the tyranny of having political opposition put in jail.”


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Putin Places Russian Forces on Alert

Russian forcesRussia ordered surprise military exercises on Ukraine’s doorstep Wednesday as tensions in that country’s southern Crimea region simmered, with pro-Russian demonstrators facing off against rival protesters in the city of Simferopol.

As the mood soured among the thousands rallying in front of the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol, some scuffles broke out.

One group waved Ukrainian flags and shouted “Crimea is not Russia,” while the other held Russian flags aloft and shouted “Crimea is Russia,” images broadcast by Crimean TV channel ATR showed. As the crowd became more agitated, a line of police moved in to divide the groups.

Local leaders sought to calm the mood, urging the protesters to go home and resist provocations.

One man died around the time of the protests in front of parliament, the Crimean Ministry of Health said on its website. The man had no visible signs of injury, and early indications point to a heart attack, it said. Seven people sought medical help.

The demonstrations signal the broad divide between those who support what is going on in Kiev, where the new government is leaning toward the West, and those who back Russia’s continued influence in Crimea and across Ukraine.

In the capital Wednesday, the names of nominees for the country’s new unity government were read to the crowd in Independence Square. Opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk was named as a nominee for interim prime minister. Candidates are expected to be voted on in parliament Thursday.

Russia’s foreign minister has vowed not to intervene militarily in Ukraine.

But with tensions in the region high, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered surprise military exercises.

The exercises are “to check combat readiness of armed forces in western and central military districts as well as several branches of the armed forces,” Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu was quoted as saying by state media.

Shoigu did not mention Ukraine, which lies to Russia’s west, but the timing of the move has prompted speculation about the motivation.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense declined to comment on the exercises since they are on Russian territory.

U.S. military intelligence has seen some Russian naval ship movement near Ukraine since the weekend, but it sees no immediate indication the Russians are preparing for any offensive military action in Ukraine, two U.S. officials said.

The White House urged “outside actors” to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty.

“We urge outside actors in the region to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and end provocative rhetoric and (take) actions to support democratically established transitional government structures and use their influence in support of unity, peace and an inclusive path forward,” Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.

Russia held at least six snap combat readiness checks of its armed forces last year, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency said.

Concerns were heightened in the Crimea region when the Crimean parliament convened a previously unscheduled session Wednesday, amid local media reports that secession might be on the agenda.

But the parliament speaker, Volodimir Konstantinov, denied there were plans to discuss “radical issues” such as the separation of Russia-oriented Crimea from Ukraine.

In a statement on the parliament website, he dismissed the local media reports as “rumors,” saying they were “a provocation aimed at discrediting and de-legitimizing the Crimean parliament.”

He also urged the Crimean people to remain calm and not be provoked, the statement said.

In the nearby port city of Sevastopol, where about 60% of the population is Russian and Moscow has a key naval base, residents told reporters they were angry that President Viktor Yanukovych has been forced out and fear that they will be oppressed by the country’s new leaders.

Small pro-Russian protests were taking place in the Black Sea city Wednesday.

Yanukovych’s base of support is in eastern and southern Ukraine, where Russian culture and language predominate. In that region, most people are suspicious of the Europe-leaning views of their counterparts in western Ukraine, who were at the heart of the anti-government protests that filled central Kiev.

Many are struggling to come to grips with the rapid political upheaval that has unfolded in Ukraine in recent days, after months of protests and last week’s bloody clashes between protesters and security forces.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has accused Ukraine’s lawmakers of discriminating against ethnic Russians by excluding them from the reform process.

The tensions come as Ukraine’s lawmakers scramble to put together a new unity government amid continued instability after Yanukovych’s ouster.

Vasil Gatsko, of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reforms (UDAR) party, said the newly formed government will be officially voted in in Ukraine’s parliament Thursday morning. The interim authorities had initially hoped to announce a new government Tuesday.

The names of the nominees for the new administration were read in Kiev’s Independence Square, or Maidan, which has been at the heart of the protest movement, for approval from the crowds gathered there. The nominees were selected in a meeting Wednesday of the three main opposition parties and smaller parties.

The lawmakers face the challenge of forming a body that genuinely represents of all the main political parties, despite their widely divergent views, and includes technical experts and some of the people’s heroes from the protests in Independence Square.

Presidential and local elections are due to be held on May 25.

One candidate has already been announced. Opposition leader and former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, of the UDAR party, will run for the presidency, his press secretary Oksana Zinovyeva said.

Earlier Wednesday, acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced that a riot police force used against anti-government protesters in Ukraine had been disbanded.

Demonstrators accused the elite Berkut force, deployed by the government of Yanukovych to quell recent protests, of using excessive force.

Avakov said on his Facebook page that he’d signed the order disbanding the force Tuesday.

But the new, pro-Russian mayor of Sevastopol said Tuesday night at a rally in the city that he had secured funding to keep paying Berkut riot police there even after the force was disbanded.

The mayor, Alexej Chaliy, was elected in an unofficial local vote, but the interim authorities in Kiev have said he is not a legitimate leader.

Last week, the bloody street clashes between demonstrators and security forces left more than 80 dead, the deadliest violence in the country since it gained independence when the Soviet Union collapsed 22 years ago.

Russia, which backed Yanukovych, contends that the President was driven out by an “armed mutiny” of extremists and terrorists. A warrant has been issued for his arrest, but his whereabouts remain unknown.

While Yanukovych is on the run, the diplomatic wheels have been set in motion within the international community.

One key concern is Ukraine’s perilous financial position.

Interim Finance Minister Yury Kolobov proposed Monday that an international donor conference be held within two weeks. Ukraine, he said, will need $35 billion in foreign assistance by the end of 2015.

Russia had offered Ukraine a $15 billion loan and cut in natural gas prices in November, but that deal seems unlikely to remain on the table if Ukraine turns toward Europe.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague tweeted Wednesday: “Will discuss international financial support for #Ukraine at the IMF in Washington DC today.”

Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform said the country has slashed its imports of natural gas from Russia in recent days.

A U.S. State Department spokeswoman on Wednesday stressed that no decision has been made about financial assistance.

“The United States is continuing to consider a range of options, including loan guarantees, to support Ukraine economically. But no decision has been made, and the next step is the formation of a multiparty, technical government.

“Once that government is formed, we will begin to take immediate steps, in coordination with multilateral and bilateral partners, that could compliment an IMF package, to support Ukraine,” said spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Speaking in Washington on Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said officials were “deeply engaged in trying to help this extraordinary transition that is taking place in Ukraine.”

In a joint news conference with Hague, Kerry said that Ukraine’s alliances should not necessarily determine what happens to its people, and that it was not a “zero sum” game.

“It is not a Russia or the United States or other choices,” he said. “This is about people of Ukraine and Ukrainians making their choice about their future. And we want to work with Russia, with other countries, with everybody available to make sure this is peaceful from this day forward.”

Yanukovych’s decision to scrap a European Union trade deal in favor of one with Russia prompted the protests, which began in November.

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New Ukraine Leaders Disband Notorious Berkut Police

Berkut policeIn a swift move, the Ukraine’s new pro-Western leaders on Wednesday disbanded the country’s feared riot police, as they sought to win confidence from the splintered and economically ravaged nation in their efforts to forge a unity government.

The interim authorities are grappling the with the dual threats of separatism and a looming debt default as they try to piece the ex-Soviet nation back together following the weekend ouster of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych.

Protests that started in November over Yanukovych’s decision to ditch an historic EU trade deal in favour of closer ties with old master Russia culminated in a week of Kiev carnage that claimed nearly 100 lives.

Yanukovych and his tight clique of security chiefs and administration insiders are widely believed to have since gone into hiding in the Russian-speaking southern peninsula of Crimea that is now threatening to secede from Ukraine.

The interim leaders’ headaches are compounded by Moscow’s decision to freeze payments on a massive bailout package that Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to Yanukovych as his reward for rejecting closer EU ties.

The Ukrainian government faces foreign debt payments of $13 billion this year and has less than $18 billion in its fast depleting coffers, a grim equation that has forced it to seek as much as $35 billion from Western states.

Both the United States and Britain have publically backed the idea of putting together an economic rescue for Ukraine that would be overseen by the International Monetary Fund.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Secretary William Hague also rejected Russia’s claim on Tuesday that Ukraine was being forced to make a historic choice between the East and West.

“This is not a zero-sum game, it is not a West versus East,” said Kerry after hosting Hague in Washington.

But EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton wrapped up a two-day visit to Kiev on Tuesday by mentioning only a “short term” economic solution for Ukraine while saying nothing about extending the billions of dollars in credit requested by interim leader Oleksandr Turchynov.

Little appears to unite the vast nation of 46 million, splintered between the Ukranian-speaking west where pro-European sentiment runs high and a heavily Russified southeast, more than a shared adversion for the Berkut riot police.

The elite units carried shields and Kalashnikov rifles as they cracked down on protesters in Kiev and brutally beat those detained, forcing one man to strip naked in the freezing cold and parade in front of a police camera in one incident that became infamous through the Internet.

But acting interior minister Arsen Avakov announced on his Facebook account that he was dissolving the feared unit effective immediately.

“The Berkut is no more,” the 50-year-old wrote.

Avakov promised to disclose further details on Wednesday and said nothing about how he would deal with a possible insurrection from one of the country’s best-armed and trained forces, a 5,000-strong contingent with deployments in every corner of Ukraine.

Turchynov and his interim team have been branded by Russia as the leaders of an “armed mutiny” who deserve no recognition as they try to forge a new unity government by a deadline that has now been pushed back to Thursday.

But the interim authorities are winning backing from Western powers even as questions linger about the constitutional legitimacy of parliament’s decision to oust Yanukovych and free opposition icon Yulia Tymoshenko from her seven-year prison sentence.

Hague stressed after the talks with Kerry that “this is a country that needs financial assistance from many sources, including from Russia.”

Kerry said Washington wanted to work with Moscow “and with everybody available, to make sure that this is peaceful from this day forward.”

Hague is expected in Ukraine shortly while US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns arrived on Tuesday for a meeting with Turchynov expected to be held later on Wednesday.

The line of Western dignitaries now treading their way to Ukraine contrasts sharply with Russia’s decision to withdraw its Kiev ambassador in a sign of displeasure with the meteoric pace of change in the neighbouring nation that Putin still views as a part of Russia’s domain.

Fears of pro-Russian regions breaking off from Kiev rule forced Turchynov on Tuesday to abruptly walk out of an emergency session of parliament in order to consult his security chiefs.

Top among the concerns are fears of mob violence in Crimea. Crowds have already ousted the mayor of the port city of Sevastopol, home to the Kremlin’s navies for the past 250 years, and appointed a Russian citizen in his place.

More pro-Russian protests are scheduled in the region on Wednesday.

The government’s formation in Kiev is expected to wrap up on Thursday with the announcement of a new prime minister.

Both Tymoshenko and Vitali Klitschko, the former boxing champion turned opposition leader, have declared themselves out of the running.

Klitschko announced on Tuesday that he would contest Ukraine’s May 25 snap presidential election, a poll that may also feature Tymoshenko.


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Interim Government Officials in Ukraine Accuse Ex-President of Mass Murder

Viktor YanukovichOusted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich is wanted by police for the “mass murder of peaceful civilians”, according to a statement posted on the Facebook page of the country’s acting interior minister.

Arsen Avakov said on Monday that an arrest warrant had been issued for Yanukovich, who fled the capital Kiev on Saturday following months of bloodshed and political upheaval.

“A criminal case has been launched over the mass murder of peaceful civilians. Yanukovich and a number of other officials have been put on a wanted list,” Avakov said in a statement posted on his Facebook account. Later on Monday, the interior minister’s personal assistant confirmed that the statement had come from Avakov, but that the warrant had yet to be finalised by the attorney general. The personal assistant also said that legal proceedings were underway.

Reuters news agency said that the former leader was last seen in a private residence in Balaclava, Crimea. On Monday afternoon acting president Oleksander Turchinov said the presidential election campaign would begin February 25, when the election commission would start registering candidates.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev questioned the legitimacy of the new Ukrainian authorities in a statement on Monday.

Russian news agencies quoted Medvedev as saying the new authorities in Ukraine have come to power as a result of “armed mutiny”.

On Sunday Turchinov said the country was ready for talks with Russia to try to improve relations, but made clear that Kiev’s European integration would be a priority. He said that Ukraine’s new leadership was ready to put Kiev-Moscow relations on a “new, equal and good-neighbourly footing that recognises and takes into account Ukraine’s European choice”.

“Another priority … is the return to the path of European integration,” he said, in an address to the nation.

Hours later, Russia recalled its ambassador in Ukraine to Moscow. “Due to the deteriorating situation in Ukraine and the need for a comprehensive analysis of the situation, the decision was made to recall the Russian ambassador to Ukraine for consultations in Moscow,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

In a phone call on Sunday with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry “underscored the United States’ expectation that Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and democratic freedom of choice will be respected by all states”.

Meanwhile, the Interfax news agency reported that Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s senior army general and Philip Breedlove, the top NATO military commander have spoken over the telephone on Monday and expressed concern over the situation in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s parliament voted to temporarily hand over the duties of president to Turchinov, the speaker of the assembly, who told deputies to agree on the formation of a national unity government by Tuesday.

The development came one day after parliament voted to oust Yanukovich from the presidency, setting May 25 as the date for new presidential elections, and two days after an agreement was reached with Yanukovich on the need to form a national unity government.

Turchinov is a close ally of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the president’s main rival.

Parliament also voted to oust the foreign minister and was told by the country’s acting prosecutor that an order had been given to detain the former incomes minister and the former prosecutor-general.

The whereabouts of Yanukovich remained unclear on Sunday, a day after he left the capital and rival Tymoshenko was freed from prison, returning to Kiev to address a massive, adoring crowd.

The centre of Kiev, meanwhile, was calm on Sunday. Protesters on Saturday took control of the presidential administration building, and thousands of Ukrainians roamed the suddenly open grounds of the lavish compound outside Kiev, where Yanukovich was believed to live.


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European nations differ over Palestinian bid


France and Spain said it will back the Palestinians’ bid to win recognition as a state at the United Nations while the U.K. set conditions for its vote and Germany ruled out support.

France said on Tuesday it would vote in favour of Palestinian non-member status at the United Nations, an important boost in Palestinian efforts to secure greater international recognition. “This Thursday or Friday, when the question is asked, France will vote yes,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced in the French National Assembly, the lower house of parliament. “It is only with negotiations between the two sides that we demand immediately without any preconditions that a Palestinian state can become a reality,” he said.

U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain will abstain unless the Palestinians commit to talks without preconditions and agree not to sign up to the International Criminal Court.

He was speaking after Spanish Foreign Minister Jose-Manuel Garcia-Margallo told the national parliament in Madrid that Spain will vote in favor. Germany won’t vote for the resolution and will work “closely” with European Union allies on the UN Security Council, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said today.

“Up until the time of the vote itself we will remain open to voting in favor if we see public assurances from the Palestinians,” Hague told lawmakers in the House of Commons in London today. “In the absence of assurances we will abstain on the vote.”

Delegates are set to vote tomorrow on a resolution circulated Nov. 8 by the Palestinian Authority that would put the Palestine Liberation Organization on par with the Holy See as a non-member state at the UN. Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz told Army Radio today that “surprises” are in store for the Palestinians if they proceed with the move.

France and Russia have already said they will support the proposal. No country has veto power in the General Assembly, so the U.S., which opposes the initiative, can’t block it.

Hague said Britain’s support is contingent on Palestinian statements and redrafting of the resolution to guarantee the restart of talks without preconditions, that the International Criminal Court will not be called in to adjudicate on activities in the occupied territories and that nothing in the resolution prejudges deliberations by the UN’s Security Council.

“It’s important that we use our vote to try to say to both sides in this conflict we need talks without preconditions,” Prime Minister David Cameron told lawmakers today. “The only way we’re going to see a peace process that works is if Israelis and Palestinians come to the table.”

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