FIRST THE DUTCH PRESIDENT THREATENED THE LIFE OF MARIA PUTIN, VALD’S DAUGHTER, WHO LIVES IN THE NETHERLANDS WITH HER DUTCH BOYFRIEND AND THEN
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk announced his resignation Thursday, opening the way for new elections that would reflect the country’s starkly changed political scene after the ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in February.
Yatsenyuk, a supporter of closer ties with Europe and a key participant in the protests that toppled Yanukovych, made the announcement from the dais of Parliament after two parties said they would pull out of the governing coalition. He said Parliament could no longer do its work and pass necessary laws.
President Petro Poroshenko, elected to replace Yanukovych May 25, earlier praised the withdrawal of the two parties. He said that “all opinion polls, and direct conversations with people, show that society wants a complete rebooting of the government.”
Poroshenko’s calls for political renewal suggests the resignation and new elections are the result of planning and political maneuvering, not chaos.
Yatsenyuk took over as prime minister just short of five months ago supported by a coalition of pro-European parties. They took power after Yanukovych was driven from office by months of street protests on Kiev’s Independence Square, or Maidan.
The protests began over Yanukovych’s refusal to sign a sweeping trade deal with the European Union, but swelled to include wider grievances such as the government’s attempts to suppress the protests with riot police, corruption, and lack of progress in modernizing the economy.
“I think this is a fully expected and planned development,” said Balazs Jarabik, visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The president and the government coalition looked for ways to clear the legal way for an early election, as they are under a lot of pressure from Maidan and the public.”
The president can dismiss Parliament for new elections if no new government is formed in 30 days.
The current Parliament was originally dominated by Yanukovych supporters in the pro-Russian Party of Regions. That group has shrunk through defections and its members face an uncertain fate in new elections.
When he took office, Yatsenyuk’s administration was expected to be a brief one because it was taking over with the government almost broke and facing the likelihood of adopting unpopular measures to satisfy conditions for rescue loans from the International Monetary Fund. It succeeded in landing the IMF bailout and last week IMF officials said the government was meeting almost all its financial targets.
The government faces tensions with Russia which termed Yanukovych’s ouster a coup, seized Ukraine’s Crimea region and cut off natural gas supplies in a price dispute.
It has also battled a pro-Russian insurgency in which rebels armed with heavy weapons such as tanks and anti-aircraft missiles have seized public buildings and battled government troops. Russia denies supporting the rebels.
The nationalist Svoboda party and the Udar party led by former boxer Vitali Klitschko pulled out of Yatsenyuk’s coalition.
Parliament speaker Oleksandr Turchynov said it was up to Udar and Svoboda to propose a candidate for temporary prime minister to lead the government until early parliamentary elections can be held.
Journalist working for CNN “ABDUCTED” (according to the Huffington “drama queen” post!) in Ukraine
updated 2:07 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Donetsk, Ukraine (CNN) — A Ukrainian journalist working as a freelancer for CNN remains in detention two days after he was detained by pro-Russian separatists.
Armed men from the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic seized Anton Skiba outside a hotel in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk after he had worked for one day with a CNN television crew.
Since his detention, CNN has attempted through a number of different separatist officials, including the office of the separatist Prime Minister Alexander Borodai, to secure Skiba’s freedom.
CNN chose not to report his detention at the time while making efforts to obtain his release.
Anton Skiba was working for CNN when he was abducted in Ukraine on Tuesday night.
That has not happened to date, so CNN is now publicly asking those who are holding Skiba to release him immediately.
Armed fighters led by a senior official from the rebel region were waiting outside the Donbass Palace Hotel when CNN’s crew returned from a day’s work at the MH17 crash site on Tuesday evening.
The official, who later introduced himself as Alexandr Kalyussky, the deputy prime minister in charge of industry in the Donetsk People’s Republic, initially accused Skiba of “terrorism” and of posting cash rewards for the killing of separatist fighters on his Facebook page. Kalyussky showed a folder of printed documents that he claimed was evidence, including an apparent printout of Skiba’s Facebook page.
Gunmen escorted Skiba to a waiting car. The young man did not resist as he was led away.
Kalyussky seized a cell phone from CNN cameraman Jeff Kehl, who tried to film the detention. Later, Kalyussky apologized and returned the cell phone to Kehl on condition that Kehl delete the video.
In subsequent conversations with CNN, Kalyussky dropped the accusation that Skiba was offering cash rewards for assassinations. Late Tuesday night, Kalyussky said Skiba was being questioned for having multiple forms of identification with different surnames. On Wednesday, another high-ranking separatist official told CNN that Skiba admitted to being a “Ukrainian agent.”
The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine said he was “very alarmed” by the incident. Geoffrey Pyatt, the envoy, laid the blame at Moscow’s door.
He told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour the Kremlin was trying “to use information and fear as part of its strategy to sow chaos in Ukraine. That’s a strategy that leads to a dead end for Russia.”
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf strongly condemned what she called Skiba’s “kidnapping” by Russian-backed separatists.
“We demand his immediate release along with the other hostage I believe they hold,” she said.
Several international human rights and press freedom organizations have called for Skiba’s immediate release.
“I strongly condemn this incident. Journalists must not become targets just for fulfilling their professional duties,” said Dunja Mijatovic, the representative for media freedom at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, and the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine have also expressed concern about Skiba and urged his release.
“The climate for press freedom in the volatile eastern Ukraine has deteriorated further,” the CPJ warned. The group reported that separatists have detained up to 10 foreign correspondents in the last week who came to the region to report on the plane crash.
On Tuesday, a British reporter working for the television network Russia Today and a cameraman for the Abkhazian Network News Agency went missing while reporting on clashes on the outskirts of Donetsk, the CPJ said.
RT freelancer Graham Phillips and an ANNA cameraman identified only as Vadim have been missing since Tuesday, the CPJ said. They were last seen near Donetsk airport.
On Wednesday, Skiba made a short phone call to CNN.
He said he was being questioned at the headquarters of the Donetsk security services and added that he would “not be available” before the call was abruptly cut off. It was unclear whether the call was made under duress.
On Thursday, separatist officials did not respond to additional requests from CNN about Skiba’s welfare.
On July 11, Kalyussky — the separatist official who detained Skiba — was added to the growing list of DPR officials to face sanctions from the European Union.
Anton Skiba had previously also worked as a fixer for the BBC for two days in the wake of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash. A journalist at the weekly Moscow-based newsmagazine Russian Reporter told CNN that Skiba also worked for several months in 2013 as a photographer for the publication.
He was working as a fixer for CNN — a freelance position that combines journalism, translating and providing local knowledge.
Planes Bring More Bodies Of MH17 Victims To The Netherlands
Posted: 07/24/2014 8:34 am EDT Updated: 2 minutes ago
KHARKIV, Ukraine (AP) — Two more military aircraft carrying remains of victims from the Malaysian plane disaster arrived in the Netherlands on Thursday, while Australian and Dutch diplomats joined to promote a plan for a U.N. team to secure the crash site which has been controlled by pro-Russian rebels.
Human remains continue to be found a full week after the plane went down — underlining concerns about the halting and chaotic recovery effort at the sprawling site spread across farmland in eastern Ukraine. Armed separatists control the area and have hindered access by investigators.
All 298 people aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 — most of them Dutch citizens — were killed when the plane was shot down on July 17. U.S. officials say the Boeing 777 was probably shot down by a missile from territory held by pro-Russian rebels, likely by accident.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who says he fears some remains will never be recovered unless security is tightened, has proposed a multinational force mounted by countries such as Australia, the Netherlands and Malaysia that lost citizens in the disaster. Abbott said Thursday he had dispatched 50 police officers to London to be ready to join any organization which may result.
Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was traveling with her Dutch counterpart Frans Timmermans to Kiev to seek an agreement with the Ukraine government to allow international police to secure the wreckage, Abbott said.
Details including which countries would contribute and whether officers would be armed and protected by international troops were yet to be agreed, Abbott said.
International experts found more remains still at the crash site both Wednesday and Thursday, Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told reporters in Donetsk on Thursday. OSCE observers, sent to monitor the conflict, escorted a delegation from Australia to examine the wreckage Thursday for the first time. More Australian specialists are expected to join them Friday, Bociurkiw said.
On Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution proposed by Australia demanding that rebels cooperate with an independent investigation and allow all remaining bodies to be recovered.
The first remains arrived in the Netherlands on Wednesday and were met by Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and hundreds of relatives. The two planes Thursday brought a total of 74 more coffins back to the Netherlands, said government spokesman Lodewijk Hekking.
Patricia Zorko, head of the National Police Unit that includes the Dutch national forensic team, said some 200 experts, including 80 from overseas, were working in Hilversum at a military barracks on the outskirts of the central city of Hilversum to identify the dead. Around the world some 1,000 people are involved in the process, which also includes gathering information from next of kin.
Staff will “examine the bodies, describe the bodies, take dental information, DNA and put all the information together in the computer and compare this information with the information they gathered from the families in the last days,” police spokesman Ed Kraszewski said in a telephone interview. “Then we have to see if there is a match.”
There are three scientific methods of identifying bodies — dental records, finger prints and DNA.
After the experts believe they have positively identified a body, they defend their findings to an international panel. If both agree, the positive identification will be sent to a Dutch prosecution office, which has the power to release the body to the next of kin.
Zorko warned that the process of identification could be drawn out.
“Unfortunately this type of investigation often takes time,” she said. “Count on weeks and maybe even months.”
The Dutch Safety Board said investigators in England successfully downloaded data from Flight 17′s Flight Data Recorder. It said “no evidence or indications of manipulation of the recorder was found.” It did not release any details of the data.
Meanwhile, police and traffic authorities appealed to the public not to stop on the highway as a convoy of hearses passes by Thursday on its way from Eindhoven Air Base to Hilversum.
On Wednesday, the convoy of hearses passed through roads lined with thousands of members of the public, who applauded, threw flowers or stood in silence as the cars drove by.
The Dutch Foreign Ministry said Thursday that the number of Dutch victims had risen by one to 194, taking into account a woman with joint German and Dutch nationalities who earlier had been listed as German.
Senior U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday that Russia was responsible for “creating the conditions” that led to the crash, but offered no evidence of direct Russian government involvement.
The officials said the plane was likely shot down by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. The U.S. officials cited intercepts, satellite photos and social media postings by separatists, some of which have been authenticated by U.S. experts.
Russia on Thursday brushed off the accusations. Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said in a video statement that if the U.S. officials indeed had the proof the plane shot down by a missile launched from the rebel-held territory, “how come they have not been made public?”
Pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian government troops have been fighting for more than three months, leaving at least 400 dead and displacing tens of thousands.
Ukrainian forces are trying to ride the momentum of taking the strategic city Slovyansk on July 5 which was in rebel hands for more than two months. Government forces are now closing in on Donetsk, where insurgents regrouped after leaving Slovyansk, and are trying to cut off supply routes to rebels based in the neighboring Luhansk region.
In Brussels, ambassadors from the 28 European Union nations agreed Thursday to add more names to the list of Russians and pro-Russian Ukrainians subject to EU-wide asset freezes and travel bans for allegedly acting against Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Seventy-two people are already covered by the measures.
European Union officials said the new names would be made public only Friday and the fresh sanctions could for the first time result in Russian companies being blacklisted from doing business in the EU.
On Friday, the ambassadors will meet again to discuss the possible imposition of further sweeping measures, targeting Russia’s high-tech, energy, defense and banking sectors, if Russia fails to cease its alleged support for the rebellion.
White House spokesman Eric Schultz said the White House expects that at least some of the individuals targeted by the EU will overlap with those sanctioned already by the U.S.
Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow, Lucian Kim in Donetsk, Ukraine, Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, and Rod McGurk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.