America’s Next Space Shuttle – Sierra Nevada Corporation’s ‘Dream Chaser’ (Pictures / Video)

Meet Dream Chaser, America’s Next Space Shuttle – Giant Freakin Robot

As you probably know, President Obama announced his decision to end NASA’s space shuttle program Constellation back in 2010. Since then, the US has been paying to transport astronauts to the ISS aboard Russian Soyuz capsules. NASA designed the four-person Space Launch System, a heavy launch vehicle, to replace the retired shuttles. So I’ve just been waiting patiently for that to come to fruition, somehow unaware of the Dream Chaser spacecraft, a commercial spaceflight transport system that will be able to take a crew of seven astronauts to the ISS, despite being about 1/3rd the size of a conventional shuttle.

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The Dream Chaser will ride aboard an Atlas 5 rocket, which will propel the craft into low Earth orbit, potentially ferrying astronauts to the ISS. Service – or some kind of crewed mission – is expected to begin in 2017, with the first orbital crewless flight in late 2016. Dream Chaser’s first unmanned flight occurred in 2013, when it flew successfully but crashed due to a malfunction in its landing gear. Actually, the vehicle flipped over at the very end, coming to rest in an upright position, after which the malfunctioning left landing gear deployed. I like a spacecraft with a sense of humor. Despite the rocky ending, the flight was regarded as an overall success.

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Dream Chaser was built by the Sierra Nevada Corporation, and it’s one of three potential commercial transport systems that are part of the space agency’s Commercial Crew Development process. NASA is expected to choose one or two of the these systems to take astronauts to the ISS. SpaceX’s Dragon is one, and Boeing’s CST-100 is the other, and so far all three have met target milestones. The teams are vying for the privilege of becoming NASA’s main mode of near-Earth orbit transit, kicking off the era of private commercial spaceflight for both crews and cargo.

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That shift will also usher in another change, with the privatization of spaceflight beyond near-Earth orbit, to places such as Mars and asteroids. SpaceX, after all, is planning on taking people to colonize the Red Planet, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, there are still more milestones to meet, and lots of fun to be had watching it happen.

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Two Killed, 17 Injured As East Harlem Buildings Collapse (Pictures / Video)

Two Dead, 17 Injured As NY Buildings Collapse – Breitbart

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Two residential buildings in Manhattan collapsed in an explosion on Wednesday, killing two women and injuring at least 17 other people as a serious fire spewed out thick smoke, officials said.

The explosion struck a building at 116th Street and Park Avenue in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York, where witnesses said they were jolted awake by what sounded like an earthquake.

Police told AFP two residential buildings next door to each other had collapsed in the incident, killing two women and injuring 17 other people who were transferred to local hospitals.

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Mainline train services in and out of Grand Central terminal were suspended as a result of the incident next to its tracks.

Hundreds of police and firefighters were on site with emergency vans and fire trucks, as a dense column of smoke spewed into the sky over the Metro-North railway line, an AFP reporter said.

There was no official confirmation of the cause of the blast but indications pointed towards a gas leak.

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Energy company Con Edison told AFP it got a call alerting crews to a possible gas leak at 9:13 am, just minutes before the blast.

“A resident reported smelling gas inside the apartment building at 1652 Park Avenue but indicated the odor may have been coming from outside the building,” company spokesman Bob McGee said.

“Two Con Edison crews were dispatched at 9:15 am and arrived just after the explosion occurred,” he added.

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The company said it was working closely with the New York Fire Department to make the area safe but said it could not yet confirm that the blast was caused by gas.

“Our crews are checking our gas lines and working to isolate any leaks that they find and they’re working closely with the FDNY to make the area safe,” McGee said.

Local residents also spoke of smelling gas in the area.

A spokesman for New York Police Department told AFP that it received an emergency call at 9:34 am.

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The Fire Department told AFP that more than 168 fire fighters and 44 different units had responded to the explosion.

Witnesses compared the sound of the explosion to an earthquake and what they saw to a war zone, after the blast ripped through their bustling city routine.

Jazzmen Arzuaga, 30, told AFP she was at work at a hospital when her wife rang to tell her what had happened.

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“She called me and told me ‘Oh my God, you need to come home now, it’s like World War II, people are dying, there was an explosion.’ I just literally ran,” she said.

The couple live across the street from the blast.

Arzuaga’s wife Jay Virgo, also 30, said she was lying in bed when the blast blew her onto the floor.

“I jumped up and I just put my coat on and I ran out of the door,” she said at the scene.

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“I ran out of the building and I looked across the street and there were couple of people lying on the floor. There were glass everwhere, huge pieces of glass. It just looked crazy.”

Witness Robert Santiago told CBS that he was sleeping when suddenly the explosion shook his bed and the floor.

“It smells very bad out here. It smells like rubble,” he said.

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“I thought the world was coming to an end, an earthquake or something like that. Terrible,” he added.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said Metro-North trains had been suspended indefinitely in and out of Grand Central because of the building explosion and collapse.

“Southbound trains are being held at stations to await further instructions. Northbound trains are being held in Grand Central,” said an emergency notice published on its website.

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Your Daley Gator Ukrainian Revolution Update (Pictures / Videos)

Putin Mocks The West And Threatens To Turn Off Gas Supplies – The Telegraph

Vladimir Putin has mocked diplomatic efforts to end the Ukraine crisis as Russia threatened to disrupt European gas supplies by cutting off sales to Kiev over its unpaid debts.

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The Russian president said through his official spokesman that, despite deep disagreements with the West, he did not want a confrontation over Ukraine to spiral into a “new cold war”.

Nevertheless Dmitry Peskov ridiculed Western demands for direct talks between the Kremlin and the new Kiev government, claiming that the loss of credibility involved “puts a smile on our face”.

The remarks were broadcast during the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, where the Ukrainian athlete carrying his national flag was given a loud cheer.

Earlier, Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy giant, said it would start to reduce deliveries to Kiev, a move that would disrupt supplies to Europe. Gazprom said Ukraine had failed to make payments on its £1.2 billion debts.

Ukraine is one of the main transit routes for the continent’s gas and the suspension of Gazprom exports in freezing temperatures in 2006 and in 2009 endangered national grids and caused sharp rises in prices. “We can’t supply gas for free,” Alexey Miller, the head of Gazprom, said. “Either Ukraine settles its debt and pays for current deliveries or the risk arises of a return to the situation we saw at the start of 2009.”

Energy experts said Russia had the power to cause problems in markets across Europe, even though peak winter demand was past. “Europe still relies heavily – in some cases 100 per cent – on Russian gas. And if that was interrupted very suddenly, there would be difficulties all round,” said Lord Howell, the former energy secretary.

But the White House brushed off the Russian announcement as less of a blow for EU economies than in previous years. Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, said reduced Russian exports would not have an immediate effect since stocks in Europe were above normal levels because of a mild winter. Structural changes in the industry also mean that less of Europe’s gas went through Ukraine.

Russian foreign ministry officials issued the tit-for-tat warnings a day after an EU summit suspended talks on visa-free access for Russians to Europe and threatened sanctions if Moscow did not change course. “Russia will not accept the language of sanctions and threats,” a foreign ministry statement said.

Two potential Ukrainian presidential contenders demanded a single, tough Western stance against Russia. Vitali Klitschko, the former boxer, and Petro Poroshenko, a businessman, both of whom are seen as likely candidates in presidential elections in May, used a visit to Paris to shore up European resolve.

Moscow displayed no signs of pulling back in the flashpoint region of Crimea despite the summit outcome and a subsequent telephone conversation between Mr Putin and President Barack Obama.

Russia’s parliament made preparations to endorse next week’s referendum in Crimea on joining the Russian Federation as a group of Crimean MPs were accorded a hero’s welcome in Moscow.

Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, said the outcome would be accepted “unquestionably”. Officials in Kiev retorted that no country in the “civilised world” would recognise a vote for merging with Russia.

Checkpoints manned by Russian soldiers and Crimea militias blocked efforts by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to enter the peninsula.

The OSCE convoy, led by a police car and followed by two buses carrying the observers, returned to the southern city of Kherson to decide if the unarmed monitoring mission can go ahead at all.

Russia said the mission was blocked because it had begun without seeking the traditional consensus support from all the organisation’s members.

Russia also scuttled a third ship in the Crimean harbour of Donuzlav to tighten its blockade on the doggedly loyal Ukrainian navy vessels trapped behind Russian lines.

The only bright point of the day came when Ukraine’s Paralympic team announced it would participate in the Winter Games in Sochi.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Ukraine prime minister, said his government was still pressing for direct talks with Russia to resolve the crisis. He demanded that Russia pull back its forces and stop supporting “separatist” activities inside Ukraine.

“We are ready to build relations with Russia,” he said. “But Ukraine will never be a subordinate or branch of Russia.”

Mr Yasenyuk also revealed the Kiev and the EU would soon sign an agreement on the political aspects of a strategic accord that fell through late last year.

The collapse of the EU association agreement provoked the mass pro-Western demonstration movement that led to the collapse of the former government of President Viktor Yanukovych.

“It is the matter of weeks now,” Mr Yatsenyuk said. “This is the most important decision that the whole country has been waiting for. This is what people were going to the streets for.”

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Tension In Ukraine Builds As Convoy Of 60 Unmarked Military Trucks Carrying Hundreds Of Soldiers Heads For Crimea As Pro-Russian Troops Fire Warning Shots At Peace Monitors – Daily Mail

A convoy of 60 unmarked military trucks carrying hundreds of soldiers was today spotted snaking its way from eastern Ukraine into Crimea, with the country appearing more divided than ever.

Warning shots were also fired inside Crimea as a foreign military mission was barred from entering the Ukrainian province by pro-Russian troops.

The mission, made up of soldiers of different nationalities from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, had automatic weapons fired over their heads.

The soldiers were told they had no authorisation to enter the peninsula. No injuries were reported.

Earlier this morning Russian foreign secretary Sergei Lavrov said that the crisis had been ‘artificially created’ for ‘geopolitical reasons’, though stopped short of accusing the West of creating tensions.

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He confirmed that Russia was open to further talks with the West as long as they remained ‘honest and partner-like’, and said he was in contact with the Ukrainian interim government, though he accused them of being right-wing extremists.

In a telephone call he also warned US secretary of state John Kerry that any sanctions would have a ‘boomerang effect’ on America.

Meanwhile pro and anti-Putin protesters have taken to the streets of Ukraine today as the country appears more divided than ever.

In the Crimean city of Simferopol hundreds of demonstrators waving Ukrainian flags marched to a military base surrounded by Russian troops while chanting ‘Russian Soldiers Out Of Crimea’.

Many of the activists waved Crimean Tartar flags. The Tartars were persecuted by Russian during the world wars and driven to Crimea, and so are strongly opposed to closer ties with the Kremlin.

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In another city, Bakhisaray, more Tartars gathered urging Ukraine to stay united after the regional government said Crimea was officially part of Russia and announced a public referendum on March 16 to confirm it.

Meanwhile in the city of Donetsk, former stronghold of ousted president Viktor Yanokovych, thousands gathered to wave banners reading ‘I Love Putin’.

Today is not the first time shots have been fired in the region, but it is the first time bullets have been directed at international troops.

Last week a Russian soldier fired above the head of Ukrainian air force troops as they marched unarmed to their base which had been occupied by Putin’s troops.

Late last night pro-Russia soldiers tried to take over a Ukrainian base in a tense stand-off that lasted for several hours.

Lt. Col. Vitaly Onishchenko, deputy commander of the base, said three dozen men wearing unmarked camouflage uniforms arrived late Friday.

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While one group climbed over a wall on one side of the base, another crashed a heavy military truck through the gates, Mr Onishchenko said.

He said that they turned off power, cut telephone lines and demanded that about 100 Ukrainian troops, who barricaded themselves into one of the base buildings, surrender their weapons and swear allegiance to Russia. The invaders left at about midnight.

No shots were fired in the stand-off, and no injuries were reported, but the incident reflected tensions running high on the Black Sea peninsula.

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In the week since Russia seized control of Crimea, Russian troops have been neutralising and disarming Ukrainian military bases there.

Some Ukrainian units, however, have refused to give up.

Crimea’s new leader has said pro-Russian forces numbering more than 11,000 now control all access to the region and have blockaded all military bases that have not yet surrendered.

Russian energy giant Gazprom has also confirmed that Ukraine owes $1.89billion and has threatened to turn off the gas supply, which could affect the rest of Europe as several important pipelines run through the country.

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Cyber Snake Plagues Ukraine Networks – Financial Times

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An aggressive cyber weapon called Snake has infected dozens of Ukrainian computer networks including government systems in one of the most sophisticated attacks of recent years.

Also known as Ouroboros, after the serpent of Greek mythology that swallowed its own tail, experts say it is comparable in its complexity with Stuxnet, the malware that was found to have disrupted Iran’s uranium enrichment programme in 2010.

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The cyber weapon has been deployed most aggressively since the start of last year ahead of protests that climaxed two weeks ago with the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovich’s government.

Ouroboros gives its operators unfettered access to networks for surveillance purposes. But it can also act as a highly advanced “digital beachhead” that could destroy computer networks with wide-ranging repercussions for the public.

Cyber warfare experts have long warned that digital weapons could shut off civilian power or water supplies, cripple banks or even blow up industrial sites that depend on computer-controlled safety programmes.

The origins of Ouroboros remain unclear, but its programmers appear to have developed it in a GMT+4 timezone – which encompasses Moscow – according to clues left in the code, parts of which also contain fragments of Russian text. It is believed to be an upgrade of the Agent.BTZ attack that penetrated US military systems in 2008.

The malware has infected networks run by the Kiev government and systemically important organisations. Lithuanian systems have also been disproportionately hit by it.

Ouroboros has been in development for nearly a decade and is too sophisticated to have been programmed by an individual or a non-state organisation, according to the applied intelligence unit at BAE Systems, which was the first to identify and analyse the malware.

The Financial Times has corroborated the existence of Snake with security and military analysts.

BAE has identified 56 apparent infections by Snake globally since 2010, almost all in the past 14 months. Ukraine is the primary target, with 32 recorded instances, 22 of which have occurred since January 2013.

“Ukraine is top of the list [of infections] and increasing,” said Dave Garfield, managing director for cyber security at BAE, who added that the instances were almost certainly “the tip of the iceberg”.

“Whoever made it really is a very professional outfit,” Mr Garfield added. “It has a very high level of sophistication. It is a complex architecture with 50 sub-modules designed to give it extreme flexibility and the ability to evolve. It has neat and novel technical features.”

“You never get beyond reasonable doubt levels of proof in this area but if you look at it in probabilistic terms – who benefits and who has the resources – then the list of suspects boils down to one,” said Nigel Inkster, until 2006 director of operations and intelligence for MI6 and now director of transnational threats at the think tank IISS.

“Until recently the Russians have kept a low profile, but there’s no doubt in my mind that they can do the full scope of cyber attacks, from denial of service to the very, very sophisticated.”

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Journalists Beaten During Russian Storming Of Ukrainian Military Base, Then Live TV Crew Harassed When They Report On It – Weasel Zippers

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Another view:

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Mellunmäki
@mrzff

Это Костас, его пиздят второй раз уже. pic.twitter.com/09RbLJT6nE

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Patrick Jackson
@patrickgjackson

Journalists beaten up in #Crimea: photo by @mrzff pic.twitter.com/Y9cpbHDOiv
6:05 PM – 7 Mar 2014

38 Retweets 9 favorites
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Via KPHG:

Ukrainian journalists are reported to have been brutally beaten during the seizure by Russian soldiers of a Ukrainian military unit on Friday evening, while in Simferopol STB journalists were attacked during a live news broadcast.

Budzhurova, head of the Crimean Association of Free Journalists stated on the Savik Shuster talk show on Friday that she had received two calls from Olena Myekhanik, a journalist from TV Inter. Myekhanik first told her that the Ukrainian military unit was under attack, that a KAMAZ truck had rammed the gates and 12 individuals had crossed onto the unit’s land. She asked for a journalist team from TV ATR to be sent. Later she rang in distress saying that the Ukrainian journalists present, including women, had been assaulted, and their video recorders smashed. The journalists were all at Unit 2355 where there is an air force command point in charge of overseeing air safety. The journalists also included a TV STB firlm crew and a Georgian national.

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Your Daley Gator Ukrainian Revolution Update (Pictures / Videos)

Russia Refers To Crimea As ‘Autonomous Region’; Sets Up Puppet State – Gateway Pundit

Russia declared Crimea an “autonomous” region on Monday. Five top pro-Russian military and security commanders took an oath to Crimea.

Crimean leader Sergey Aksyonov appealed to Russia for assistance.

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Breitbart reported:

It appears that Russia has taken control of Crimea without firing a shot and is referring to it as the “Autonomous Republic of Crimea,” presumably with the intention of making it a puppet state of Moscow.

Ukraine’s government in Kiev is only a few days old and seems to be in disarray. So far, it’s avoiding any strong military overreaction that would provide Russia with an excuse for a further military invasion, perhaps into eastern Ukraine beyond Crimea. However, the government warned Sunday it was on the brink of disaster and called up military reservists to counter Russia’s threat to Ukraine.

Russia has appointed Sergey Aksyonov to prime minister of Crimea, and on Sunday he announced:

I believe that this day will go down in history of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea as the day that all law enforcement agencies were established in the autonomy. We will prove that the Crimeans are capable of protecting themselves and ensure the safety and freedom of our citizens.

Today the Autonomous Republic of Crimea is formed as an independent, integral public authority. I am sure that all of us will prove that we did not just come into power and that we can give Crimeans what they expect from us.

We will never see ‘Maidan’ with their black smoke and burned tires here. I responsibly promise that Crimea by May will be calm, quiet, friendly. People of all nationalities will live here happily.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the decision to send in troops was only to protect human rights.

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Ukraine: Russia Delivers ‘Assault Storm’ Deadline – Sky News

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Russia has reportedly given Ukrainian forces in Crimea a deadline of 3am on Tuesday to surrender or face military action after troops seized key strategic sites in the peninsula.

The ultimatum came from Alexander Vitko, commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which has a base in Crimea where Russian forces are now in control.

According to Russia’s Interfax agency, it reads: “If they do not surrender before 5am (3am UK time) tomorrow, a real assault will be started against units and divisions of the armed forces across Crimea.”

But in a conflicting report, Interfax quoted an official representative for the Russian Ministry of Defence as saying the ultimatum was “total nonsense”.

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The US said any threat by Russia to Ukraine forces would represent a “dangerous escalation” in the crisis, and Moscow would be responsible.

It came as Russian President Vladimir Putin watched tanks and armoured vehicles taking part in military exercises at a training ground in north-west Russia.

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Mr Putin attended the final day of war games he ordered on February 26 to test the combat-readiness of his armed forces in western and central parts of Russia, regions adjacent to Ukraine, a spokesman said.

The Russian foreign ministry said Nato’s criticism of its actions in Crimea “will not help stabilise” the situation in Ukraine.

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British Prime Minister David Cameron said Russia will face “diplomatic, political, economic and other pressures” to send a “clear message” about its actions in the Ukraine.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev discussed the escalating crisis in Ukraine with US Vice President Joe Biden by telephone on Monday.

Mr Medvedev “declared that it is necessary to protect the interests of all Ukrainian citizens, including residents of Crimea, and citizens of Russia who are located in Ukraine,” according to Interfax.

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He added that Russia would press ahead with plans to build a bridge linking Russia directly with the Crimea region – providing a vital transport link to the Black Sea peninsula.

Mr Medvedev told deputies the two countries had signed “documents related to a project for construction of a transport corridor across the Kerch Strait” in December, when now-ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych was still in power.

Hundreds of Russian soldiers have surrounded a military base in Crimea, preventing Ukrainian soldiers from going in or out.

The convoy blockading the site, near the Crimean capital Simferopol, includes at least 17 military vehicles.

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Russian troops have also reportedly taken control of a ferry terminal in the city of Kerch, on the eastern tip of Crimea, which has a majority Russian-speaking population.

Ukraine’s defence ministry said two Russian fighter jets violated the country’s air space in the Black Sea on Sunday night and that it had scrambled an interceptor aircraft to prevent the “provocative actions”.

Elsewhere, pro-Russian protesters have taken over a floor of the regional government building in Donetsk, say reports. The 11-storey building has been flying the Russian flag for the last three days.

The crisis has had a huge effect on global stock markets, with Moscow’s stock exchange plunging more than 10% on Monday.

Russia’s central bank raised its rate to 7% from 5.5% as the ruble hit an historic low against the dollar and the euro.

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‘Weak’ Obama Is Blasted For His ‘Laughable’ Response To Putin As Both Parties Say President Is Letting Russia Push Him Around – Daily Mail

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Senior US politicians from both parties criticized President Barack Obama’s threats to Russian President Vladimir Putin and called for immediate sanctions if troops are not immediately withdrawn from Ukraine

Republican Senators John McCain (AZ), Marco Rubio (FL) and Bob Corker (TN) and others, as well as some Democrats, reached across the aisle to call for immediate sanctions against Russia and aid to Ukraine before Putin becomes even more emboldened.

McCain was quick to criticize the president’s threats in an interview with the Daily Beast, calling them ‘laughable’ and partly blaming former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for thinking she and Obama could ‘reset’ relations with Russia back in 2009.

‘She believed that somehow there would be a reset with a guy who was a KGB colonel who always had ambitions to restore the Russian empire,’ said McCain. ‘That’s what this is all about.’

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The Senator called for the Obama administration to more liberally enforce the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law and Accountability Act, which has allowed the US government to sanction Russian officials for human rights violations since being signed into law in 2009.

On Sunday morning, Secretary of State John Kerry called Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine ‘an incredible act of aggression’ and said President Vladimir Putin has made ‘a stunning, willful’ choice to invade another country.

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

Kerry is raising the possibility of boycotting the June meeting of the Group of Eight leading industrialized countries in Sochi, Russia.

He’s also discussing visa bans, asset freezes, and trade and investment penalties.

Kerry said he spoke with foreign ministers for G-8 and other nations on Saturday, and says everyone is prepared ‘to go to the hilt’ to isolate Russia.

Any Russian officials, Putin included, involved in sending troops to Ukraine should be sanctioned, McCain argued – such action would result in asset freezing, visa bans and a wagging of the collective international finger, Daily Beast noted.

‘We must consider legislation to respond to this,’ McCain continued. ‘The Magnitsky bill can be expanded for holding people responsible for these acts of aggression.’

The longtime Senator also called for economic sanctions and other actions against Russia.

Corker also hammered away at the situation, calling Russia ‘a nation still smarting from the breakup of the Soviet Union with a leader who is nothing but an autocrat’ and called for immediate sanctions during a CNN interview.

‘We need to do everything we can to isolate them,’ Corker continued. ‘We’ve got to work with [Europe] to do the necessary things… to mitigate conduct.’

He later said in a statement ‘Vladimir Putin is seizing a neighboring territory – again – so President Obama must lead a meaningful, unified response.’

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Rubio called for Obama to deploy Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to the Ukrainian capital, according to USA Today.

He also called for a prohibition of Russian officials traveling to the US, and to convene an emergency meeting of NATO to allow Georgia into the fold.

Kerry, in a statement, said the ‘United States condemns the Russian Federation’s invasion and occupation of Ukrainian territory… we call for Russia to withdraw its forces back to bases [and] refrain from interference elsewhere in Ukraine.’

Unless immediate and concrete steps are taken by Russia to deescalate tensions, the effect on U.S.-Russian relations and on Russia’s international standing will be profound,’ Kerry threatened.

The president also informed Putin that the US has pulled out of preparatory meetings for an upcoming G-8 summit in Sochi, as the UN mulled over possible sanctions and Ukraine warned that it’s troops are ‘at the ready,’ a government official told CNN.

‘The United States condemns Russia’s military intervention into Ukrainian territory,’ a White House statement said.

New York Democratic Rep Eliot Engel called for a ‘robust international economic assistance package’ including loan guarantees for Ukraine in a statement released Saturday.

Arkansas Republican Rep Tom Cotton demanded the president recall the US Ambassador to Russia from Moscow and revoke visas and freeze the assets of Putin’s cronies, provide military assistance to Ukraine and sack Russia from the G-8 group of nations, according to USA Today.

Russia has military bases in Crimea, but those personnel are in violation of international law by entering Ukraine despite Russia’s Duma willfully granting Putin permission to deploy troops into Ukraine as the country grows further divided.

It appears further liberties were already being taken by Russian troops early Sunday morning, they took weapons from a Ukraine radar facility near Crimea and urged people there to side with ‘legitimate leaders,’ iTV reported, citing Interfax.

Former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra told Newsmax only hours earlier that ‘there’s not a whole lot the United States can do’ to bring Putin and Russia in line.

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Putin expressed his concern for the Russian citizens in Russia and said that the deployment of troops into the country was to protect them, according to a Kremlin statement.

‘Vladimir Putin stressed that in case of any further spread of violence to Eastern Ukraine and Crimea, Russia retains the right to protect its interests and the Russian-speaking population of those areas,’ the statement said.

Obama strongly urged Putin to immediately de-escalate and to use peaceful means to address concerns including through talks with the new Ukrainian government or through the US of international observers sent under the UN umbrella, the White House countered.

The president also offered to broker talks between Russian and the Ukraine to prevent the countries from war as the former Soviet bloc country’s new government warned it is being ‘provoked’ by Russia’s actions.

A Ukraine government spokesperson told CNN there are an estimated 15,000 troops in Crimea, a small country separating mainland Ukraine from Sevastopol.

‘The troops are already there, and their number is increasing every hour,’ the spokesperson explained.

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Russia has also maintained a naval base in Sevastopol per a 1997 treaty signed shortly after Ukraine gained independence.

The Ukrainian city sits on a small peninsula that is not connected to the rest country, making it particularly vulnerable to the kind of military action undertaken by Russia.

Putin further blamed ultra-nationalists in the Ukraine for Russia’s further encroachment into Ukrainian sovereign territory, according to the Kremlin.

Eastern Ukraine leans more heavily towards Russia than the western part of the country, whee the capital Kiev is located. Many international observers fear the country will plunge into a civil war that might break it up into two or more countries if conditions further deteriorate.

The dramatic eleventh-hour call came as the United Nations Security Council met in an emergency session less than a week after the Sochi Olympics to mull over possible economic sanctions to enact against the rogue permanet Security Council member.

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After meeting behind closed doors, the council agreed to hold the open, televised meeting despite objections from permanent member Russia. Ukraine has accused Russia of ‘a military invasion and occupation’ of strategic points in the Crimean peninsula.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin scoffed at the notion, saying the US and other European nations are overreacting and that his country cannot agree to end all military actions.

Some reports have suggested Russia may even recall its ambassador to the US in protest of western involvement in the crisis.

Ukraine has asked the other four permanent council members – the U.S., Britain, France and China – for help in stopping Russia’s ‘aggression.’

Ukrainian Ambassador to the UN Yuriy Sergeyev said Russia has rejected Ukraine’s proposal to hold immediate bilateral consultations, and vowed his country would not be drawn into military conflict.

‘Ukraine will not be provoked, we will not use force, we demand that the government of the Russian Federation immediately withdraw its troops and return to their home bases,’ he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said earlier Saturday that he is ‘gravely concerned about the deterioration of the situation’ in Ukraine. He spoke later by telephone with Putin.

‘I am gravely concerned by some of the recent events in particular those that could in any way compromise the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the [Ukraine],’ Ban said in a statement about the call.

‘It is crucial to restore calm and proceed to an immediate de-escalation of the situation,’ Ban continued. ‘Cool heads must prevail and dialogue must be the only tool in ending this crisis.’

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A Ban spokesman delivered the statement Saturday afternoon as members of the Security Council met in an emergency closed-door session for the second straight day on the rapidly developing events in Ukraine’s Crimea region.

Obama later spoke with President Francois Hollande and Australian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the White House announced.

All three ‘leaders agreed that Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected, and expressed their grave concern over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine,’ said a separate White House statement.

‘The leaders affirmed the importance of unity within the international community in support of international law, and the future of Ukraine and its democracy.’

The Security Council decided to hold the open meeting after struggling behind closed doors to reach agreement on how to meet. Some members wanted open, or public consultations, on Ukraine, which Russia initially opposed.

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Ban’s statement called for ‘full respect for and preservation of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine’ and demanded the ‘immediate restoration of calm and direct dialogue between all concerned.’

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said the meeting is to determine ‘what justification Russia claims to have’ for its de facto military takeover of the strategic Crimea region.

As a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia has veto power and can block the U.N.’s most powerful body from adopting any resolution criticizing or sanctioning Moscow.

Outside the council chamber, Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador called on countries to do everything possible to stop Russia’s “aggression.”

‘The Russian Federation brutally violated the basic principles of the Charter of the United Nations,’ Sergeyev told reporters..

During a break, an exasperated Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters, ‘We are ready for serious discussions.’

Ban was flying to Geneva on Saturday where he planned to meet the following day with his special envoy Robert Serry, the Netherlands’ first ambassador to Ukraine.

After Friday’s closed-door Security Council consultations, Ban asked Serry to go to Crimea as part of a fact-finding mission. However, after consulting with authorities in the autonomous region, Serry decided that a visit to Crimea was not possible and headed to Geneva.

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Kerry: ‘I Don’t Know What You Mean By The Reset’ – Washington Free Beacon

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NBC’s David Gregory pressed Secretary of State John Kerry on the status of the U.S.-Russia “reset” during an interview Sunday on Meet the Press.

“Well, I don’t know what you mean by the reset,” Kerry oddly responded.

The question was asked as Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) among others have argued U.S.-Russia relations are deteriorating and have asked the administration to publicly acknowledge this.

“The Obama administration must publicly acknowledge that its “reset” with Russia is dead. The president must now accept that the only way to deal with tyrants like Vladimir Putin is with a clear understanding that they can’t be trusted and that only decisive action will deter their provocative moves,” Rubio wrote in Politico Magazine.

When pressed further by Gregory, Kerry weakly responded, “We’ve entered into a different phase with Russia. I don’t think this is a moment to be proclaiming one thing or the other.”

The full exchange is available below:

DAVID GREGORY: Before I get to my final question on Israel with a big meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, coming to meet with President Obama, Marco Rubio is on this program in just a few minutes saying it’s time for the administration to publicly acknowledge that the reset with Russia is dead. Do you acknowledge that?

JOHN KERRY: Well, I don’t know what you mean by the reset.

GREGORY: The reset in relations that this administration called for.

KERRY: I know, but long ago, we’ve entered into a different phase with Russia. I don’t think this is a moment to be proclaiming one thing or the other. We’ve had difficulties with Russia with respect to certain issues, and even as we have, we’ve managed to do the Start treaty. They’ve cooperated on Afghanistan, they’ve cooperated on Iran. So, it’s not a zero-sum, dead-alive. It’s a question of differences, very profound differences on certain issues and certain approaches, and we’ve made those very clear over the course of the last months.

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Ukraine Illustrates The Danger Of Entrusting Foreign Policy To Top Men – The Federalist

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The past two days have revealed the dangerous ramifications of the narrow-minded foreign policy elite in Washington, and a media establishment that has for so much of President Obama’s tenure accepted the statements of the administration as gospel. Just as we learned the dangers of the lack of a questioning element – a healthy, serious, skeptical voice in the room – within the administration of George W. Bush, so too we see the consequences of a narrow viewpoint on global affairs which now exists within the Obama administration.

As Eli Lake outlines, the decision of Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine came as a sudden shock to a Washington that less than a day earlier had dismissed such possibilities:

On Thursday night, the best assessment from the U.S. intelligence community – and for that matter most experts observing events in Ukraine – was that Vladimir Putin’s military would not invade Ukraine. Less than 24 hours later, however, there are reports from the ground of Russian troops pushing into the Ukrainian province of Crimea; the newly-installed Crimean prime minister has appealed to Putin to help him secure the country; Putin, in turn, is officially asking for parliament’s permission to send Russian forces into Ukraine. It’s not a full-blown invasion – at least, not yet. But it’s not the picture U.S. analysts were painting just a day before, either… U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence on the fast moving situation in Ukraine tell The Daily Beast that analytic products from the intelligence community this week did not discount the prospect of Russian provocations and even light incursions in the Russian majority province of Crimea, the home of Russia’s fleet in the Black Sea. Nonetheless, until Friday, no one anticipated a Russian invasion of Ukrainian territory.

These officials were not alone. At Foreign Affairs, the headline was “Why Russia Won’t Invade Ukraine”; at The New York Times, “Why Russia Won’t Interfere”; and at Time, “No, Russia Will Not Intervene in Ukraine”. Joshua Tucker at The Washington Post has already had to change the now-ludicrous title of his post, explaining:

Those who have already read this post (including the first 15 commentators below) will know that I originally posted with the title “5 reasons for everyone to calm down about Crimea”. Developments in the ensuing hours have shown how poor a title that turned out to be.

It’s no surprise that, given the echo chamber of the media, the administration itself gives all the signs of being caught flat-footed, unable to adjust to the situation that runs against their preconceived notions and those of the chattering class:

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke with Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu on March 1, telling him that there was ‘no change’ in the U.S.’s military posture toward Ukraine in the hours after Russia’s parliament approved a Russian military presence in Ukraine.

If this is the sort of foreign policy anticipation that the establishment delivers, it’s little surprise that no one trusts America’s self-styled policy elites any more. They are too used to judging the world according to the patterns toward which they are already biased, as opposed to seeing it as it is.

As for the situation in Crimea itself: while the 1994 Budapest Memorandum does not require that the United States enter into this current conflict, as it is not a formal treaty, it does make the situation for the Obama administration a great deal more complicated than, say, the 2008 situation in Georgia. The Ukrainian situation has a nuclear subtext which matters in the broader context: because Ukraine had to surrender its nuclear arsenal as part of the 1994 agreement, U.S. inaction now sends a signal that nations ought to maintain their nuclear arsenal as opposed to trusting the Americans to defend their legitimacy. The mix of Polish, Turkish, and Russian interests here make for an all the more dangerous situation given the spillover potential of a major crisis.

What ought to be a first priority in this context is the administration’s opportunity to position itself as ready to use the leverage of international economic policy and energy policy to dissuade the Russians from their current trajectory or, at least, loosen Putin’s stranglehold on European energy markets. U.S. law currently prevents American energy producers from freely exporting natural gas or crude oil to anywhere even remotely near Europe. To remedy this glaring economic and geopolitical mistake, the president (who has shown no qualms about using sweeping definitions of executive power in other areas) could issue blanket executive orders declaring all US natural gas exports to be in the “public interest” and all crude oil exports to be in the “national interest”, the applicable legal standards for both commodities.

While immediate gas exports directly to Europe would be limited by a lack of U.S. export facilities (thanks, again, to glacial government policy), crude exports could begin instantly and US gas could be exported thru Canada and Mexico. At the very least, these moves would serve as a significant signal to global energy markets and to the Russians that the United States fully intends to use its newfound energy abundance to stabilize global markets and counterbalance Russian influence across the Atlantic. At best, they might actually help to weaken Russian energy oligarchs and, by extension, Putin himself.

Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, who have both recently expressed support for US energy export liberalization (Cruz especially), should take up this message at once. It represents an opportunity to use expanded trade freedom and American economic might to prevent further loss of life and signal the United States’ seriousness on the matter, without firing a single American bullet. And, unlike the United Nations or the World Trade Organization, it is a step that can be done unilaterally with, quite literally, the stroke of the President’s pen.

In the meantime, at least the president himself is taking it seriously.

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Zeke Miller
@ZekeJMiller

Obama did not attend the meeting, but WH official says he has been briefed by Susan Rice and his national security team.
3:34 PM – 1 Mar 2014

221 Retweets – 31 favorites
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Smart power, indeed.

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Russian Stocks Crash As Central Bank Scrambles, Hikes Rates Most Since 1998 Default – Zero Hedge

Following a 150bps rate hike by the central bank – the largest since the 1998 default -desperate to halt capital outflows and a collapsing currency, Russian stocks have crashed 11% led by some of the country’s largest banks. USDRUB rose to just shy of 37 – the weakest RUB rate on record – but rallied back a little on the rate hike but the MICEX stock index tumbled 11% to almost 2-year lows with Sberbank (Russia’s largest bank) down 17% and VTB (2nd largest bank) down 20%. Between the threat of economic sanctions from the West and simple risk-aversion-based capital flight, as one analyst noted, “uncertainty risks a further escalation in domestic capital outflow.”

MICEX is down 11% today alone…

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Ruble at record lows against the USD…

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It was the biggest increase in a Russian benchmark rate since June 1998, less than two months before Russia defaulted on domestic sovereign bonds and devalued the currency. The refinancing rate used to be the central bank’s main reference.

The Banks have been battered…

* Sberbank, Russia’s biggest bank, drops 17%, loses most since 2008
* VTB, Russia’s second-bigest lender, tumbles 20%
* Bank St. Petersburg falls 16%
* Bank Vozrozhdenie declines 10%
* Nomos Bank slides 12%

European and U.S. leaders have threatened sanctions against Russia, creating risks that economic growth will stall, demand for the country’s assets will dry up and a selloff in the currency will deepen. “There is a risk of international backlash against Russia at a time when the economy faces an increasing need for foreign capital inflows… This uncertainty risks a further escalation in domestic capital outflow.”

Around the world, stock markets are tumbling with Europe down around 2% – almost its largest drop in 7 months; and Japan down 600 from Friday’s highs.

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Perhaps They Should Have Held On To Them: Hundreds Of Rusting Tanks Abandoned In Secret Ukrainian Depot Unveiled As Russia’s Armoured Vehicles Line Its Streets – Daily Mail

These incredible photographs show a huge tank graveyard in the Ukraine – home to hundreds of the abandoned vehicles which the country may desperately need it tensions with Russia continue to escalate.

Filled with rows upon rows of slowly rusting relics, the once deadly war machines now lie dormant in a secret depot in the town of Kharkov in the Slobozhanshchyna region of eastern Ukraine – just 20 miles from the border with Russia.

After hearing about the strange Soviet-era tank cemetery from a friend, photographer Patvel Itkin, 18, spent months trying find its whereabouts.

Despite the disused area being heavily monitored by guards, Mr Itkin managed to sneak in and spend several hours taking dozens of photographs.

Once a thriving tank repair plant, the depot has since become redundant, meaning all the vehicles are now abandoned.

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Your Daley Gator Ukrainian Revolution Update (Pictures / Videos)

Russia Moves To Deploy Troops In Ukraine – Wall Street Journal

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The American and Russian presidents spoke on the phone for 90 minutes on Saturday after Russia’s parliament voted unanimously to deploy troops in Ukraine, defying warnings from Western leaders not to intervene.

In his conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. President Barack Obama expressed “his deep concern over Russia’s clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.” Mr. Obama urged Russia to de-escalate tensions by withdrawing its forces back to bases in Crimea and to refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine.

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Saturday’s developments come as Russian troops and their local allies have already largely taken control of Crimea, a restive province of Ukraine that belonged to Russia until 1954 and remains predominantly pro-Russian.

In a statement after the call between Mr. Putin and Mr. Obama, the White House said the U.S. “condemns Russia’s military intervention into Ukrainian territory.”

Mr. Putin told Mr. Obama that Russia reserved the right to intervene in Ukraine to protect its interests and those of the Russian-speaking population there, according to a statement from the Kremlin.

Mr. Putin also spoke of “provocations, crimes by ultranationalist elements, essentially supported by the current authorities in Kiev.” It wasn’t clear what incidents Mr. Putin was referring to.

In Moscow, Russian lawmakers also asked Mr. Putin to recall the country’s ambassador to the U.S. On Friday, Mr. Obama had publicly warned Russia that there would be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.

Western officials expressed alarm and cautioned Russia to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

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French President François Hollande also spoke with Mr. Putin Saturday and urged him to avoid any use of force in Ukraine. The French leader held a round of phone calls with Mr. Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that aimed to forge a common position between the allies.

“I deplore today’s decision by Russia on the use of armed forces in Ukraine. This is an unwarranted escalation of tensions,” said European Union foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he is “gravely concerned about the deterioration of the situation” in Ukraine.

In an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Saturday that the regional Crimean government had formally requested Russian military assistance to restore stability to the peninsula. U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power denounced the Russian decision to intervene as “dangerous as it is destabilizing” and said it was taken without legal basis. “The Russian military must stand down,” Ms. Power said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu. U.S. defense officials wouldn’t immediately provide any details of the call and didn’t say whether Mr. Hagel delivered any warning or caution.

In Brussels, ambassadors to the main political decision-making body of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are set to meet Sunday to discuss the crisis in Ukraine. Afterward, the ambassadors will meet with the Ukrainian ambassador to NATO in a format called the NATO-Ukraine Council.

Meanwhile, skirmishes broke out in other regions of Ukraine, raising concern about broader unrest.

The new government in Kiev called an urgent session of its security council Saturday evening and set a special parliamentary meeting for Sunday to discuss the Russian move.

Vitali Klitschko, the former boxing champion who is one of the protest movement’s most prominent leaders, called on parliament to call a “general mobilization” to respond to the threat, apparently referring to Ukraine’s military.

Heavily armed troops, many from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which is based in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, surrounded key facilities across the region in the past day. The newly installed pro-Russian leader of Crimea Saturday formally asked Russia to deploy its troops to help secure the region.

Mr. Putin’s request didn’t specify how many troops might be sent. It said they would be deployed “until the normalization of the social-political situation in the country.”

The request cited the “threat to the lives of Russian citizens” living in Crimea, as well as the personnel of the Black Sea Fleet.

The approval of Mr. Putin’s request doesn’t necessarily mean troops will be dispatched immediately, an official said.

“Having the right (to deploy forces) doesn’t mean immediately, momentarily exercising that. So we will hope that the situation will go according to a better scenario and won’t continue to be exacerbated as it is now,” presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a radio interview.

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Mr. Peskov said in the interview that no decision had been made yet on deploying forces to Ukraine or on recall of the ambassador.

Sergei Aksyonov, who was appointed prime minister of Crimea after armed men took over the regional parliament this week, said troops from the Black Sea Fleet are guarding vital facilities in the region and helping with patrols to ensure public order. Mr. Aksyonov, who is pro-Russian, said he was taking command of the peninsula’s police and army.

In the economically important eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, hundreds of pro-Russian protesters massed Saturday in the main square and took over a main government administration building, and raised the Russian flag, according to local residents and news outlets. It was unclear whether the protesters were local residents. The number of protesters was also unclear; Russian and Ukrainian media had wildly different estimates of crowd strength.

The Donetsk city council issued a statement demanding a referendum over whether the mining region with strong ties to Russia should remain part of Ukraine.

By nightfall, the area around the Donetsk main square was quiet. A reporter from Ukrainian national television said that the protesters remained inside the building, drinking tea and planning new pro-Russia protests for Monday.

In Kharkiv, protests erupted Saturday between crowds of mostly young men who have been camped out at different sides of the city’s main square – Europe’s largest city square – for weeks now.

The groups, one which is pro-Kiev and the other which is pro-Moscow, are mostly local youth, some of which are supporters of the local football team, who appear to have more personal grievances with each other rather than deeply held political agendas, according to local residents who know several of the people at the demonstration.

Interfax reported that about 100 people were injured in the disorder Saturday, though that figure couldn’t immediately be confirmed.

Ukraine military bases were quickly surrounded and sealed off Saturday by Russian forces in Crimea as the Kremlin made preparations for a larger-scale landing of troops.

Russian troops were posted near the gates and around the perimeters of several bases near Sevastopol. When asked why they were there, officers replied that they were providing security to the bases, to stop any pro-Russian citizens who might try to take them.

The troops posted around the base had no markings on their uniforms. Their commander, when asked if he could reveal their nationality, said “of course not.” Others admitted they were Russian. Ukrainian officials at the base said the Russians were allowing food and provisions to be brought in.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused the government in Kiev of trying to destabilize the region and directing gunmen to capture Crimea’s ministry of internal affairs building overnight. It said the attack, which couldn’t be verified, was averted with “decisive action.”

Five people who live in the buildings next to the ministry building in Simferopol said everything was peaceful Friday night and they heard nothing. There were no signs of struggle at the building complex.

Vladimir Krashevsky, a top official at the Simferopol-based division of the local berkut, or riot police, said there was no attack by Kiev-allied gunmen on the building, where he gave an impromptu news conference Saturday.

“There was no attack here and there won’t be one,” he said.

The resolution authorizing the use of force in Ukraine cited the threat to Russian citizens there, but officials in Moscow repeatedly suggested that the Kremlin was coming to the defense of ethnic Russians in Ukraine, even if they hold Ukrainian citizenship.

“There is a threat today to the lives and safety of our fellow citizens, of Russian speakers, of ethnic Russians,” Valentina Matvienko, speaker of the upper house of parliament, told reporters after the vote. “We can’t remain indifferent.”

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Asked about possible western counter-intervention, she said there was no ground for it. “With all due respect to the United States, where is the U.S. located and where is Russia? This is happening on Russia’s border.”

Alexander Chekalin, a senator, spoke before the vote, saying, “we are one people, speaking one language, following one faith and sharing one history.” The eastern and southern parts of Ukraine have a large number of Russian-speakers who are members of the Orthodox church.

On Friday, armed men surrounded Crimea’s two main airports, took command of its state television network and set up checkpoints along the key roads connecting the peninsula to the rest of Ukraine. On Saturday, professional military men in unmarked green camouflage uniforms appeared outside the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol.

Ukrainian officials said the well-equipped men – many of whom carried sophisticated automatic weapons – were Russian soldiers.

The leader of the Crimean Tatars, the ethnic minority that accounts for 12% of Crimea and supports the new government in Kiev, sought to dispel the notion that the seizure of government buildings in Crimea had grown out of a citizen uprising.

“These buildings were seized by specially trained people acting on military orders,” said Refat Chubarov, the Tatar leader and deputy in the parliament, at a news conference Saturday.

Ukraine’s new prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, called the continuing militarization in Crimea a provocation intended to draw in Ukraine militarily. He demanded Russian forces return to their base in Sevastopol.

“The presence of Russian troops is nothing more than a violation of the agreement for the Black Sea Fleet to be in Ukraine,” Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted him as saying. “We urge the Russian government to withdraw their troops and return them to their base.”

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Ukraine Calls Up Reserves, Readies For Potential Combat With Russia – Jerusalem Post

Ukraine mobilized on Sunday for war and called up its reserves, after Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to invade in the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.

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Ukraine’s security council ordered the general staff to immediately put all armed forces on highest alert, the council’s secretary Andriy Parubiy announced. The Defense Ministry was ordered to conduct the call-up, potentially of all men up to 40 in a country that still has universal male conscription.

Russian forces who have already bloodlessly seized Crimea – an isolated Black Sea peninsula where most of the population are ethnic Russian and Moscow has a naval base – tried to disarm the small Ukrainian contingents there on Sunday. Some Ukrainian commanders refused to give up weapons and bases were surrounded.

Of potentially even greater concern are eastern swathes of the country, where most of the ethnic Ukrainians speak Russian as a native language. Those areas saw violent protests on Saturday, with pro-Moscow demonstrators hoisting flags at government buildings and calling for Russia to defend them.

Putin’s declaration that he has the right to invade his neighbor – for which he quickly received the unanimous approval of his parliament – brought the prospect of war to a country of 46 million people on the ramparts of central Europe.

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Unreal: Obama Skips National Security Meeting On Russia Situation – Capitalism Institute

As the situation between Russia and Ukraine develops, you’d expect our president to be keeping up-to-date on every single detail coming out. But remember, this is Obama. He didn’t attend national security briefings while our ambassador was in danger in Benghazi.

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According to tweets from White House press correspondents, Obama skipped a key national security meeting on the Ukraine situation earlier today. Absolutely unreal.

Where was he? Golfing?

The Weekly Standard writes:

A White House official emailed some reporters to say that President Obama’s team met today to discuss the ongoing situation on Ukraine. It appears President Obama did not attend.

“The President’s national security team met today to receive an update on the situation in Ukraine and discuss potential policy options. We will provide further updates later this afternoon,” reads the full statement.

According to Time magazine’s Zeke Miller, Obama skipped the meeting. “Obama did not attend the meeting, but WH official says he has been briefed by Susan Rice and his national security team,” says Miller.

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Instead of attending a meeting with his national security team, Susan Rice, the Obama advisor who repeatedly said that Benghazi had everything to do with a YouTube video, is briefing the president on crucial national security matters. What could possibly go wrong?

Did JFK skip national security meetings during the Cuban Missile Crisis? No. Even Jimmy Carter was intimately involved in every aspect of the negotiations and operations during the Iran Hostage Crisis. Barack Obama is a new low for the office of the president. Unbelievable.

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Ted Cruz: ‘Vague Threats’ Not Enough; Suspend Russian G8 Membership Now – Big Peace

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On February 28th, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) reacted to President Obama’s “hastily arranged” speech against Russian military intervention in the Ukraine by saying the U.S. needs to suspend “Russian membership in the Group of Eight (G8),” and we need to do so “immediately.”

He made it clear that mere words and “the President’s vague threats” are not enough because mere “appeals to international norms” hold no sway over Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Moreoever, Cruz said international norms mean even less than usual to Putin “when they run counter to his goal of re-establishing Soviet-style regional hegemony over unfortunate states like Georgia and Ukraine who have the temerity to want a more free, prosperous future for their people.”

Cruz said the U.S. must suspend Russian membership in the G8. If that doesn’t give Putin pause, he added, suspensions from “the World Trade Organization and even the United Nations Security Council” should be pursued.

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Ukraine’s Acting President Demands Russia Stop ‘Provocations’ In Crimea – Euronews

Ukraine’s acting president Oleksandr Turchynov has urged Russia to stop “provocations” in Crimea and to pull back military forces.

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“They are provoking us into a military conflict. According to our intelligence, they are trying to implement the scenario that is very similar to Abkhazia,” he said, referring to Russia’s intervention in Georgia over breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which have large ethnic Russian populations.

“I’m personally addressing President Putin and demanding that he stops provocations immediately and calls back the troops from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and works only according to the signed treaties,” added Turchynov in televised comments.

Euronews saw several Russian armoured personnel carriers (APCs) parked in an area where pro-Russian self defence groups set up a roadblock.

We tried to speak to some of the men in military uniform, but they were reluctant to talk to us in detail. They were friendly and they told us that that was a drill.

Euronews correspondent Sergio Cantone said: “Finally here are the Russian APCs with number plates and identification signs. They are on the road from Sevastopol to Simfereopol. But it is not clear where are they heading.”

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Ukraine Crisis Tests Obama’s Foreign Policy Focus On Diplomacy Over Military Force – Washington Post

For much of his time in office, President Obama has been accused by a mix of conservative hawks and liberal interventionists of overseeing a dangerous retreat from the world at a time when American influence is needed most.

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The once-hopeful Arab Spring has staggered into civil war and military coup. China is stepping up territorial claims in the waters off East Asia. Longtime allies in Europe and in the Persian Gulf are worried by the inconsistency of a president who came to office promising the end of the United States’ post-Sept. 11 wars.

Now Ukraine has emerged as a test of Obama’s argument that, far from weakening American power, he has enhanced it through smarter diplomacy, stronger alliances and a realism untainted by the ideology that guided his predecessor.

It will be a hard argument for him to make, analysts say.

A president who has made clear to the American public that the “tide of war is receding” has also made clear to foreign leaders, including opportunists in Russia, that he has no appetite for a new one. What is left is a vacuum once filled, at least in part, by the possibility of American force.

“If you are effectively taking the stick option off the table, then what are you left with?” said Andrew C. Kuchins, who heads the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “I don’t think that Obama and his people really understand how others in the world are viewing his policies.”

Rarely has a threat from a U.S. president been dismissed as quickly – and comprehensively – as Obama’s warning Friday night to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin. The former community organizer and the former Cold Warrior share the barest of common interests, and their relationship has been defined far more by the vastly different ways they see everything from gay rights to history’s legacy.

Obama called Putin on Saturday and expressed “deep concern over Russia’s clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is a breach of international law,” the White House said.

From a White House podium late Friday, Obama told the Russian government that “there will be costs” for any military foray into Ukraine, including the semiautonomous region of Crimea, a strategically important peninsula on the Black Sea.

Within hours, Putin asked the Russian parliament for approval to send forces into Ukraine. The vote endorsing his request was unanimous, Obama’s warning drowned out by lawmakers’ rousing rendition of Russia’s national anthem at the end of the session. Russian troops now control the Crimean Peninsula.

President’s quandary

There are rarely good – or obvious – options in such a crisis. But the position Obama is in, confronting a brazenly defiant Russia and with few ways to meaningfully enforce his threat, has been years in the making. It is the product of his record in office and of the way he understands the period in which he is governing, at home and abroad.

At the core of his quandary is the question that has arisen in White House debates over the Afghan withdrawal, the intervention in Libya and the conflict in Syria – how to end more than a dozen years of American war and maintain a credible military threat to protect U.S. interests.

The signal Obama has sent – popular among his domestic political base, unsettling at times to U.S. allies – has been one of deep reluctance to use the heavily burdened American military, even when doing so would meet the criteria he has laid out. He did so most notably in the aftermath of the U.S.-led intervention in Libya nearly three years ago.

But Obama’s rejection of U.S. military involvement in Syria’s civil war, in which 140,000 people have died since he first called on President Bashar al-Assad to step down, is the leading example of his second term. So, too, is the Pentagon budget proposal outlined this past week that would cut the size of the army to pre-2001 levels.

Inside the West Wing, there are two certainties that color any debate over intervention: that the country is exhausted by war and that the end of the longest of its post-Sept. 11 conflicts is less than a year away. Together they present a high bar for the use of military force.

Ukraine has challenged administration officials – and Obama’s assessment of the world – again.

At a North American summit meeting in Mexico last month, Obama said, “Our approach as the United States is not to see these as some Cold War chessboard in which we’re in competition with Russia.”

But Putin’s quick move to a war footing suggests a different view – one in which, particularly in Russia’s back yard, the Cold War rivalry Putin was raised on is thriving.

The Russian president has made restoring his country’s international prestige the overarching goal of his foreign policy, and he has embraced military force as the means to do so.

As Russia’s prime minister in the late summer of 2008, he was considered the chief proponent of Russia’s military advance into Georgia, another former Soviet republic with a segment of the population nostalgic for Russian rule.

Obama, by contrast, made clear that a new emphasis on American values, after what were perceived as the excesses of the George W. Bush administration, would be his approach to rehabilitating U.S. stature overseas.

Those two outlooks have clashed repeatedly – in big and small ways – over the years.

Obama took office with a different Russian as president, Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s choice to succeed him in 2008.

Medvedev, like Obama, was a lawyer by training, and also like Obama he did not believe the Cold War rivalry between the two countries should define today’s relationship.

The Obama administration began the “reset” with Russia – a policy that, in essence, sought to emphasize areas such as nuclear nonproliferation, counterterrorism, trade and Iran’s nuclear program as shared interests worth cooperation.

But despite some successes, including a new arms-control treaty, the reset never quite reduced the rivalry. When Putin returned to office in 2012, so, too, did an outlook fundamentally at odds with Obama’s.

‘Reset’ roadblocks

Just months after his election, Putin declined to attend the Group of Eight meeting at Camp David, serving an early public warning to Obama that partnership was not a top priority.

At a G-8 meeting the following year in Northern Ireland, Obama and Putin met and made no headway toward resolving differences over Assad’s leadership of Syria. The two exchanged an awkward back-and-forth over Putin’s passion for martial arts before the Russian leader summed up the meeting: “Our opinions do not coincide,” he said.

A few months later, Putin granted asylum to Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor whose disclosure of the country’s vast eavesdropping program severely complicated U.S. diplomacy. Obama had asked for Snowden’s return.

In response, Obama canceled a scheduled meeting in Moscow with Putin after the Group of 20 meeting in St. Petersburg last summer. The two met instead on the summit’s sidelines, again failing to resolve differences over Syria.

It was Obama’s threat of a military strike, after the Syrian government’s second chemical attack crossed what Obama had called a “red line,” that prompted Putin to pressure Assad into concessions. The result was an agreement to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, a process that is proceeding haltingly.

Since then, though, the relationship has again foundered on issues that expose the vastly different ways the two leaders see the world and their own political interests.

After Russia’s legislature passed anti-gay legislation, Obama included openly gay former athletes in the U.S. delegation to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

New barbarities in Syria’s civil war – and the near-collapse of a nascent peace process – have drawn sharper criticism from U.S. officials of Putin, who is continuing to arm Assad’s forces.

How Obama intends to prevent a Putin military push into Ukraine is complicated by the fact that, whatever action he takes, he does not want to jeopardize Russian cooperation on rolling back Iran’s nuclear program or completing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.

Economic sanctions are a possibility. But that decision is largely in the hands of the European Union, given that its economic ties to Russia, particularly as a source of energy, are far greater than those of the United States.

The most immediate threat that has surfaced: Obama could skip the G-8 meeting scheduled for June in Sochi, a day’s drive from Crimea.

“If you want to take a symbolic step and deploy U.S. Navy ships closer to Crimea, that would, I think, make a difference in Russia’s calculations,” Kuchins said. “The problem with that is, are we really credible? Would we really risk a military conflict with Russia over Crimea-Ukraine? That’s the fundamental question in Washington and in Brussels we need to be asking ourselves.”

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Your Daley Gator Ukrainian Revolution Update (Pictures / Videos)

Putin Seeks Military Action In Ukraine; 6,000 Russian Troops Already Sent To Crimea – Gateway Pundit

Russian President Vladamir Putin asked parliament for permission to send troops to Ukraine on Saturday. The Kremlin already has 6,000 troops in the Crimea region of Ukraine.

Security cameras captured the moment Russian soldiers seized the Crimea parliament building yesterday.

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The AP reported:

Russian President Vladimir Putin asked parliament Saturday for permission to use the country’s military in Ukraine, moving to formalize what Ukrainian officials described as an ongoing deployment of Russian troops in the strategic region of Crimea.

Putin’s motion loosely refers to the “territory of Ukraine” rather than specifically to Crimea, raising the possibility that Moscow could use military force in other Russian-speaking provinces in eastern and southern Ukraine where many oppose the new authorities in Kiev.

President Barack Obama warned Moscow on Friday “there will be costs” if Russia intervenes militarily.

“I’m submitting a request for using the armed forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine pending the normalization of the socio-political situation in that country,” Putin said in a statement released by the Kremlin.

He said the move is needed to protect ethnic Russians and the personnel of a Russian military base in Ukraine’s strategic region of Crimea. Putin sent the request to the Russian legislature’s upper house, which has to approve the motion, according to the constitution. The rubber-stamp parliament is certain to approve it in a vote expected Saturday.

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Russian Parliament Cheers After Voting 87-0 To Invade Ukraine – Gateway Pundit

87 votes in favor – 0 votes against

Unanimous response to send Russian troops to Ukraine.

The Russian lawmakers cheered after the vote passed.

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Pro-Russian mob stormed the city administration building in Kharkiv, Ukraine today. Kharkiv is the second largest city in Ukraine located in the pro-Russian northeast region.

The thugs beat the opposition and forced them to kneel.

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Krauthammer’s Take: Obama Tells The World We Aren’t Going To Do Anything About Invasion Of Ukraine – National Review

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As reports are coming in that Russia has placed 2,000 troops in Crimea, within the borders of Ukraine, President Obama said that “the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”

Charles Krauthammer responded on Special Report tonight saying, “The Ukrainians, and I think everybody, is shocked by the weakness of Obama’s statement. I find it rather staggering.”

Krauthammer thinks Obama’s statement is about “three levels removed” from actual action. He explained: Obama said “we will stand with the international community – meaning we are going to negotiate with a dozen other countries who will water down the statement – in affirming that there will be costs – meaning in making a statement not even imposing a cost, but in making a statement about imposing a cost – for any military intervention.”

“What he’s saying is we’re not really going to do anything and we’re telling the world,” Krauthammer said.

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“Stupid” “Insipid” Sarah Palin Predicted Russian Invasion Of Ukraine – Gateway Pundit

Back in 2008, Republican candidate Sarah Palin predicted Barack Obama’s weak response to a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“After the Russian army invaded the nation of Georgia, Senator Obama’s reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence – the kind of response that would only encourage Russia’s Putin to invade Ukraine next.”

She nailed it.

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This was after Barack Obama failed to react to Russia’s invasion of American ally Georgia.

Today Sarah Palin wrote on Facebook – “I Told You So.”

Yes, I could see this one from Alaska. I’m usually not one to Told-Ya-So, but I did, despite my accurate prediction being derided as “an extremely far-fetched scenario” by the “high-brow” Foreign Policy magazine. Here’s what this “stupid” “insipid woman” predicted back in 2008: “After the Russian Army invaded the nation of Georgia, Senator Obama’s reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence, the kind of response that would only encourage Russia’s Putin to invade Ukraine next.”

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Flashback: Mitt Romney Was Right About Russia And Putin, And Barack Obama Was Wrong – Freedom’s Lighthouse

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Remember this from the third Presidential Debate during the 2012 Election?

Barack Obama had mocked Mitt Romney for calling Russia and Vladimir Putin a U.S. Foreign Policy threat. Mitt Romney responded that it is indeed a threat, and told Obama “I have clear eyes on this, and I’m certainly not going to wear rose-colored glasses about Russia or Mr. Putin.”

Once again, Mitt Romney was right, and Barack Obama is proven to be terribly wrong.

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Stranger Than Fiction: Russian Bikers Among Those Blocking Some Of The Roads In Crimea… Update: Bikers Special Buddies Of Putin – Weasel Zippers

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Alan Cullison
@AlanCullison

Russian bikers take lead at block posts in Crimea. Pic here of commander of post blocking east-west highway. #ukraine
10:29 AM – 28 Feb 2014 from Ukraine, Ukraine

113 Retweets 30 favorites
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Some kind of war. Biker dudes and military without insignia.

Update:

Here’s more on the bikers.

Via ABC:

While a group of camouflaged, armed militiamen patrolled Crimea’s main airport today, there was a second gang of tough-looking men who showed up to join the pro-Russia side to take control of this mostly Russian enclave of southern Ukraine.

The tattooed and bejewelled crew was decked out in leather, black jeans and heavy boots, with patches of a wolf and flame stitched onto their vests. They were the Russian biker gang, the “Night Wolves.” They’ve modeled themselves on the Hell’s Angels, and President Putin has been known to don a leather jacket and ride with them.

Its president, Hirurg, had just landed from Moscow and the local Simferopol chapter was there to pick him up (alas, in a car, not on Harleys). Burly and broad-shouldered, Hirurg sported a goatee, sideburns and a friendly – if intimidating – demeanour. “Hirurg” means surgeon in Russian and he said he was an actual surgeon (having watched every season of “Sons of Anarchy,” I was disappointed the name wasn’t for something more dramatic).

Keep reading

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Alexander Marquardt
@MarquardtA

President of biker gang “Night Wolves” arrived at Simferopol airport from Moscow, says here to ask what locals need.
7:50 AM – 28 Feb 2014

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Update:

Just any old biker group, their aim is to “spread Russian influence around the world”.

Let’s look at pictures from the past few years, with leader receiving medal from Putin for restoring a Soviet monument, and Putin riding with them:

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Your Daley Gator Ukrainian Revolution News Roundup (Pictures)

House Fit For A Tyrant: Protestors Storm The Sprawling, Luxury Estate Of Ukraine’s Fugitive President Which Has Its Own Private Zoo, Golf Course And Is Half The Size Of Monaco – Daily Mail

A beautiful forested estate of graceful waterways, summer houses and exotic gardens.

This is the home of Ukraine’s fugitive president, who was dramatically ousted from power after one of the worst periods of violence in the country’s history.

Ukraniains streamed to see Viktor Yanukovich’s luxury estate, which has been closed off to the world for nearly a decade, and rubbed their eyes in disbelief when they were confronted by the scale of the opulence he built around him.

The property in Mezhyhirya, an hours drive from Kiev, has a golf course, helicopter pad and is situated in a country where the average salary is less than £300 a month.

Below the house, a garage is filled with classic sports cars worth millions, while in the exotic gardens Australian and African ostriches stretch their legs.

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Yanukovich, 63, who fled into hiding on Saturday as the turmoil of three months confrontation with his people caught up with him, relaxed at weekends in luxury behind high walls patrolled by scores of security guards.

When the dream ended and Yanukovich’s staff fled the Gatsby-like mansion in the early hours of Saturday, the Kiev protest movement that had opposed him invited Ukrainians to go to see the opulence Yanukovich lived in.

As they poured in their thousands, by foot and by car, onto the 140-hectare grounds for a first glimpse at a luxury they could only suspect, Ukrainians gawped in wonderment at the fairytale surroundings.

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What they saw reflected more the inflated dreams of a Middle East potentate – with all the attendant obsessions with security – rather than a rough-hewn man from the gritty eastern Ukraine who got to the top the hard way.

Yanukovich bought a small house on the plot at the start of his presidency in 2010. Subsequently, according to local media, he acquired control of the full estate which exists today through a chain of companies with which he had close interests.

Beyond a five-floor Russian-style house – some said it was his guest house – a stone staircase opened up to a landscaped vista of water features, arboreal walkways and tree-lined avenues stretching into the distance.

Few people – apart from Yanukovich’s chosen few and family – have visited a secret place which has been charted by satellite images that show a helicopter pad and a golf course.

With Yanukovich obsessed by security and fear of attack, they had to leave their mobile phones at the entrance to the grounds and pick them up only on leaving, locals said.

‘This is a monument to a tyrant which we want to show the people,’ said Eduard Leonov, a parliamentary deputy from the far-right nationalist Svoboda party.

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Graeco-Roman statues – a Goddess covering her modesty with her hair, lovers intertwined – decorated the lawns. Ornate ponds – half frozen on Saturday – nonetheless bubbled with water being pumped through them. Love-seats and colonnaded meeting places dot the estate.

There is a Russian bath-house – closed to the public on Saturday with an opposition protester’s helmet on a chair across the door. On a hilltop, looking down on the Dnipro river through trees, was a plaza for a barbecue.

Families and lovers out for a different sort of Sunday afternoon excursion, posed for family album snaps at a once-in-a lifetime occasion.

Most shook their heads in wonderment at the ambitions of a president who had always proclaimed that he was on the side of the poor people of Ukraine.

‘We did not expect anything like this. It is really extensive and all done with our money, the money of ordinary people. It really is too much for one person. It’s very emotional when you see something like this,’ said Serhiy Remezovsky, who had brought his wife and nine-month old son.

Ukrainian opposition icon and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko spoke to supporters at a Kiev protest camp just hours after being released from a hospital where she was incarcerated.

She arrived on stage in Kiev in a wheelchair and looked frail as she addressed thousands of demonstrators who had packed into Independence Square.

Tymoshenko, heroine of the 2004 Orange Revolution, is the chief rival of President Viktor Yanukovych.

His rule is crumbling after protesters took control of the capital Saturday and parliament voted to remove him from power.

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You are heroes, you are the best thing in Ukraine’ she said of those killed in the violence, looking tired and speaking from a wheelchair as she addressed the euphoric crowd.

She also congratulated the protestors for ‘removing the cancer from Ukraine’ and demanded the ousted President Yanukovych be brought to Independence Square.

‘This is your victory, no politicians could do what you have done,’ she said.

‘This country is now free, you have given this country its freedom.

‘You have removed this cancer from our country. I am convinced that any bullet shot through the heart of the people went through the heart of each Ukrainian.

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Upon her release, Tymoshenko promised to run for president and immediately went to Kiev’s Independence Square.

‘When I came to Kiev the first thing I wanted to do was come to the barricades,’ she added.

‘I wanted to feel the feelings that had all these boys and girls on the barricades had been through.

‘All the people responsible will be brought to justice.’

The appearance brought Tymoshenko back to the square where she attracted world attention in the 2004 Orange Revolution protests, a riveting figure then for her rhetoric, her elaborate blond peasant braid and her fashionable clothing.

The square has been the nucleus of a three-month protest movement that pushed Yanukovych to major concessions this week.

Parliament arranged the release of the current President Viktor Yanukovych’s arch-rival, who has been imprisoned since 2011, but the president said he would not recognize any of the lawmakers’ decisions as valid.

Her release will send shockwaves through Ukrainian politics, at a moment of deep turmoil following the worst unrest in the sprawling country since the days of the Soviet Union.

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Protesters in the Ukrainian capital claimed full control of the city Saturday following the signing of a Western-brokered peace deal aimed at ending the nation’s three-month political crisis.

They were seen demanding the resignation of their president and attacking politicians, a move which President Victor Yanukovych branded ‘a coup’ and likened it to the rise of Nazis in the 1930s.

Viktor Yanukovych also says he has no intention of resigning or leaving the country. Hours after he and opposition leaders signed an agreement aimed at resolving the country’s turmoil yesterday, Mr Yanukovych went to Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, the heartland of his support.

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On Saturday, he made the coup accusation in a televised statement.

The opposition has demanded a new election be held by May 25, as the pro-Russian leader’s grip on power rapidly eroded following bloodshed in the capital.

The nation’s embattled president, Viktor Yanukovych, reportedly had fled the capital for his support base in Ukraine’s Russia-leaning east.

Ukraine’s border guard service said that a leading governor and a mayor from the president’s eastern base have fled to Russia.

A spokesman for the border guard service, Oleh Slobodyan, said Kharkiv regional governor Mikhaylo Dobkin and Kharkiv Mayor Hennady Kernes left Ukraine across the nearby Russian border.

Both are top allies of President Viktor Yanukovych, whose rule appeared increasingly under question after protesters took over the capital and parliament voted to remove him.

There are fears that Ukraine might split in two, creating a Russian-leaning east and Europe-leaning west.

Police abandoned posts around the capital, and protesters took up positions around the presidential office and residence.

Parliament discussed voting on impeaching Yanukovych and setting a quick date for new elections to end a crisis over Ukraine’s identity and future direction.

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Yanukovych’s whereabouts were unclear Saturday morning. Media outlets reported that he left Kiev for his native eastern Ukraine after surrendering much of his powers and agreeing to early elections by the end of the year.

But despite the promise of an election and significant concessions, protesters blame him for police violence and amassing too many powers and want him ousted immediately.

At a special parliament session on Saturday, Oleh Tyahnybok, head of the nationalist Svoboda party, called for discussion of impeachment.

The parliament speaker – Yanukovych ally Volodymyr Rybak – announced resignation, citing ill health as the reason.

The president’s representative in parliament warned against splitting the country in two, an outcome that worries many but is increasingly seeming a possibility.

The country’s western regions want to be closer to the EU and have rejected Yanukovych’s authority in many cities, while eastern Ukraine – which accounts for the bulk of the nation’s economic output – favors closer ties with Russia.

The president’s concessions came as part of a deal intended to end violence that killed scores and left hundreds wounded in Kiev this week as snipers opened fire on protesters. It was the worst violence in Ukraine’s modern history.

Andriy Parubiy, a leader of the protest camp on Independence Square, known as the Maidan, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that Yanukovych fled for Kharkiv, the center of Ukraine’s industrial heartland. Kharkiv was the capital of Soviet Ukraine from 1919-1934.

The claims of the president’s departure could not be immediately confirmed, however.

A group of protesters in helmets and shields stood guard at the president’s office, with few police in sight.

Protesters booed opposition figures who took to a stage last night to present their deal with the president, which cuts Yanukovych’s powers.

‘Death to the criminal!’ some chanted, referring to Yanukovych.

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Ukraine Parliament Votes To Remove President – USA Today

Ukraine’s parliament voted to remove President Viktor Yanukovych on Saturday, even as the embattled leader remained defiant, calling the country’s political crisis a “coup” and saying he has no intention of resigning or leaving the country.

“They are trying to scare me. I have no intention to leave the country. I am not going to resign, I’m the legitimately elected president,” Yanukovych said in a televised statement. “What we see today is a coup – I did everything to prevent the bloodshed. We adopted two amnesty laws. We did everything to stabilize the political situation.”

“I will do everything to protect my country from breakup, to stop bloodshed,” he added.

In the vote, parliament also moved to have early elections on May 25. In a deal brokered Friday to stop the violence, early elections were set for December.

Lawmakers said the move to impeach was necessary. “Yanukovych is not capable of fulfilling his presidential duties,” said opposition lawmaker Oleh Lyashko. Lawmakers will also consider banning the president from running in upcoming elections.

Meanwhile, imprisoned opposition leader and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was released Saturday after spending 2 1/2 years in prison.

Hours after her release, the 53-year-old Tymoshenko spoke to a crowd gathered at Independence Square.

“No one could do what you have done, eliminate a tumor,” she said “A dictator is gone and you are the heroes, you are the best of Ukraine. But you may not leave here until you finish the job and we go all the way.”

“And now every person in our country must get the kind of life that these people died for,” she added, referring to the dozens of protesters killed over the past week by government forces. “I believe in Ukraine.”

On Saturday, the Health Ministry said the death toll in clashes between protesters and police had reached 82. Earlier, as many as 100 were reported killed.

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Ukraine’s New Leaders Order Arrest Of Former President Yanukovych – Fox News

Ukraine’s acting government announced Monday that an arrest warrant has been issued for the country’s former president, Viktor Yanukovych, whose whereabouts are unknown.

In a statement on his official Facebook page, acting interior minister Arsen Avakhov wrote that Yanukovych and several other officials were wanted on charges of “mass killing of civilians” in violence that engulfed Ukraine’s capital city, Kiev, earlier this week. At least 82 people, most of them protesters, were killed in clashes with members of the police and security forces. Some of the dead were shot by snipers in strategic positions overlooking the main protest camp in Kiev’s Independence Square.

Calls are mounting in Ukraine to put Yanukovych on trial after a tumultuous presidency in which he amassed powers, enriched his allies and cracked down on protesters.

Avakhov said Yanukovych arrived in the pro-Russian Black Sea peninsular region of Crimea on Sunday and relinquished his official security detail before driving off to an unknown location.

Ukrainian law enforcement agencies said earlier Monday that they have no information about the whereabouts of Yanukovych, who reportedly was seen in the port city of Sevastopol, home of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

After signing an agreement with the opposition to end a conflict that turned deadly, Yanukovych fled the capital for eastern Ukraine. Ukraine’s border service said he tried to fly out of the country Saturday from Donetsk but was stopped by their officials.

Opposition lawmaker Volodym Kurennoy said on his Facebook page that he had unconfirmed information that the president had been arrested in Crimea. Ukrainain news portal Liga.net also reported that Sevastopol residents saw Yanukovych in the company of Russian marines.

But the claims could not be independently verified, and spokespersons for the regional and national Interior Ministry and Security Service said Monday they had no such information.

Avakhov published a letter that he said was from Yanukovych, dated Monday, in which he gives up his security guard. Yanukovych’s aides and spokespeople could not be reached Monday to verify the reported letter – they have been rapidly distancing themselves from him as his hold on power disintegrates.

Yanukovych set off a wave of protests by shelving an agreement with the EU in November and turning toward Russia, and the movement quickly expanded its grievances to corruption, human rights abuses and calls for Yanukovych’s resignation.

“We must find Yanukovych and put him on trial,” said protester Leonid Shovtak, a 50-year-old farmer from the western Ivano-Frankivsk region who came to Kiev’s Independence Square to take part in the three-month protest movement. “All the criminals with him should be in prison.”

The acting finance minister said Monday that the country needs $35 billion (25.5 billion euros) to finance government needs this year and next and expressed hope that Europe or the United States would help.

“The state treasury has been torn apart, the country has been brought to bankruptcy,” Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a protest leader and prominent lawmaker whose name is being floated as a possibility for prime minister, said in parliament Monday.

The speaker of parliament, Oleksandr Turchinov, assumed the president’s powers Sunday, but a presidential aide told the AP on Sunday that Yanukovych plans to stay in power. Turchinov said Monday that he hopes to form a coalition government by Tuesday.

But emotions are running high among the country’s rival parties. When a leading member of Yanukovych’s party, Oleksandr Efremov, told parliament Monday that he was crossing over to the opposition, an opposition lawmaker got up and waved his fist in Efremov’s face, showering him with insults.

Russia’s prime minister said the legitimacy of the new Ukrainian authorities is questionable.

Dmitry Medvedev said Monday, according to Russian news agencies, that the new authorities have come to power as a result of “armed mutiny,” so their legitimacy is causing “big doubts.”

He said that Russia doesn’t know with whom to communicate in Ukraine, and criticized the West for recognizing the new authorities following the ouster of Yanukovych.

Tensions have also been mounting in Crimea, where pro-Russian protesters gathered in front of city hall in the port of Sevastopol on Monday chanting “Russia! Russia!” Russia maintains a big naval base in Sevastopol that has tangled relations between the countries for two decades. The head of the city administration in Sevastopol quit Monday.

Turchinov has said that top priorities include saving the economy and “returning to the path of European integration,” according to news agencies. The latter phrase is certain to displease Moscow, which wants Ukraine to be part of a customs union that would rival the EU and bolster Russia’s influence. Russia granted Ukraine a $15 billion bailout after Yanukovych backed away from the EU deal.

U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt said the U.S. is ready to help Ukraine get aid from the International Monetary Fund.

The European Union, meanwhile, is reviving efforts to strike a deal with Ukraine that could involve billions of euros in economic perks. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is visiting Kiev on Monday and Tuesday.

The protest movement has been in large part a fight for the country’s economic future – for better jobs and prosperity.

Ukraine has struggled with corruption, bad government and short-sighted reliance on cheap gas from Russia. Political unrest has pushed up the deficit and sent exchange rates bouncing, and may have pushed the economy back into a recession.

Per capita economic output is only around $7,300, even adjusted for the lower cost of living there, compared to $22,200 in Poland and around $51,700 in the United States. Ukraine ranks 137th worldwide, behind El Salvador, Namibia, and Guyana.

Ukraine has a large potential consumer market, with 46 million people, an educated workforce, and a rich potential export market next door in the EU. It has a significant industrial base and good natural resources, in particular rich farmland.

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Why A New Ukraine Is The Kremlin’s Worst Nightmare – The Independent

The details still need to be decided, but the revolutionaries have won in Ukraine. Some elements of the old regime may survive, but that is precisely why the protesters on the “Maidan” (Kiev’s main square) don’t trust the mainstream politicians who claim to be negotiating on their behalf.

The politicians in suits can do the donkey work – writing a new constitution to improve on the old one they have just restored, and trying to save the collapsing economy. But the Maidan leaders in the fatigues and helmets will set the agenda on justice – dismantling the militia and reworking the corrupt legal system, so that the many guilty end up behind bars. And there are credible reports that the snipers who killed more than 70 on Thursday were based in the government buildings that are already being occupied by protesters combing for evidence. Once the world knows who gave the deadly orders, justice will decapitate the old regime. And the “official” opposition will be radicalised by the need to compete with the moral authority of the Maidan.

All of which is the Kremlin’s worst nightmare. When the protests started back in November they were about a trade deal with the EU. Russia was ecstatic that it had persuaded Ukraine to walk away from that deal, and was picking off the other states in the EU’s “Eastern Partnership” programme (Armenia caved in September, Georgia and Moldova were expected to come under enormous pressure in 2014). Russia hoped to drag them into its alternative Eurasian Union instead, which is due to be launched in January 2015.

But this is 10 times worse than Brussels expanding its bureaucracy to Russia’s borders. A real democracy in Ukraine is an existential threat to the entire system that Vladimir Putin has built since 2000. Ironically because Putin is right – most Russians regard Ukraine as a kin state, or not really a different state at all. They are used to stepping in tandem; so if something changes in Ukraine, why not in Russia too? And now the dominoes might fall in the other direction. Other Maidans might appear in other neighbouring states – maybe first in Moldova where the Russia-backed Communist Party was hoping to return to power in elections due in November.

Putin marginalised his own protest movement after the last Russian election cycle. He does not want to see that flare up again. So far, the Russian opposition has been quiet. Few have supported the Ukrainian Maidan, even fewer sound inspired to copy it – for now. But Putin will need to come up with something more convincing than the scattergun propaganda the Russian media has pumped out to date.

None of the favourite Russian myths – the protesters are all crazy nationalists, which is why they are also backed by the Americans, the young guys throwing rocks are really only interested in promoting gay rights – make much sense in the long run.

So the new government in Ukraine, however it’s made up, will be given the briefest of ritualistic honeymoons before Russia uses every instrument at its disposal to try to make it fail. Unfortunately, Russia holds most of the economic cards. Ukraine’s coffers are almost empty, and the old guard is busy looting what is left. It has less than $18bn (£10.9bn) in hard currency reserves, its currency is dropping and immediate debt-repayment needs are more than $10bn.

Russia tied Ukraine to a $15bn bailout deal in December, which is parcelled out by the month to maximise leverage, and periodically suspended whenever the opposition looked like getting the upper hand. But Russia’s real aim was to provide just enough money to support the old semi-authoritarian system (helping Viktor Yanukovych pay the police) and keep Ukrainian society post-Soviet, that is, still dependent on government. So Ukraine’s new leaders will have to be honest and say their aim is to dismantle both. They cannot declare victory now, but will have to plead for popular support during what will be two or three difficult years.

And if the West is serious about an alternative deal, Ukraine needs a lot of money fast. Fortunately, the West would no longer be throwing it down the black hole created by the old regime. Instead the money would support the kind of kamikaze leader Ukraine has never had in the past. Politicians were reluctant to make difficult choices and lose elections, because they’d never get back into power. Now Russia and the old regime will back any populist who promises to keep government subsidies flowing; but an honest kamikaze might just win the long-term credit and at least write his place in the history books.

Russia has talked a lot about its “soft power” in recent years. It isn’t particularly soft. The new Ukraine will pay more for gas, which will be regularly cut off for “technical reasons”. Russia’s crazy “food safety” agency will declare that everything that comes out of Ukraine is radioactive. Ukrainian migrant workers will be sent home now they have finished helping to rebuild Sochi.

Worst of all, Russia will work hard to try to re-corrupt the political system. The Kremlin used to boast that it could exploit Ukraine’s old-style “democracy” – meaning that, just like Yanukovych, they could launch their own puppet parties and buy agents of influence in the honest ones. The Ukrainian Front, a bizarre alliance of hooligans and bikers with a vaguely pan-Slavist ideology that appeared in the eastern city of Kharkiv two weeks ago, was backed by the Russians. Skinheads and sportsmen with the money to spend on propaganda are not a natural combination. Similar groups may pop up in Crimea and elsewhere, where the last elements of the old regime may try and regroup.

But Russia’s ultimate problem is the same as Yanukovych faced. The Kremlin simply can’t understand that protesters would be motivated by ideology rather than by money or foreign support. The Russians were good at manipulating the old system, but dealing with real revolutionaries is a different matter. Ukraine is starting a very bumpy ride.

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Kiev In Chaos As Protesters Clash With Police (Pictures / Videos)

Ukraine: Protesters And Police Clash On Worst Day Of Kiev Bloodshed – The Guardian

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Three months of confrontation in Ukraine between the president and a large protest movement reached its peak on Tuesday night in the worst bloodshed since the country separated from Moscow more than two decades ago, with more than 20 people reported killed as riot police moved in to clear Kiev’s Independence Square, the crucible of the anti-government activism.

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Hopes for a settlement of the crisis went up in smoke amid scenes of rioting, burning buildings, police bombings and rubber bullets that also left up to 500 people injured.

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A large section of the protest camp in the capital, Kiev, was engulfed in flames on Tuesday night as police advanced on the demonstrators using water cannons and stun grenades.

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The security services had earlier issued a warning, ordering tens of thousands of protesters to get off the streets by Tuesday evening or face a crackdown.

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The violence, the worst since a government-opposition confrontation erupted last November, came after President Viktor Yanukovych, the main target of the protests, stalled on outlines of an agreement to appoint a new technocratic coalition government or have his powers cut back.

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The president issued a statement warning leaders of the opposition to dissociate themselves from radicals, otherwise he would “talk differently” with them. Yanukovych said some members of the anti-government opposition had crossed a line when they called on supporters to bring weapons to the demonstration in Kiev. The president called those people “criminals” and said they would face justice in court.

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By Wednesday morning the Ukraine health ministry was putting the death toll at 25, the Reuters news agency reported. This included both civilians and security forces.

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Columns of riot police sought to banish crowds of protesters from encroaching on the country’s parliament, while demonstrators ransacked offices of Yanukovych’s political party.

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“Extremists are killing innocents on the streets of the capital, burning buildings and cars,” the statement from the security services said. “Unless the disorder stops, we will have to restore order by all means envisaged by law.”

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The White House asked Yanukovych to “exercise maximum restraint”. But video footage from Kiev showed heavily armed riot police firing Kalashnikovs. Both police and opposition leaders called on women and children to leave the protest camp in Independence Square, known as the Maidan, as riot police began their assault.

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Vitali Klitschko, an opposition leader and former world heavyweight boxing champion, said: “The government has deliberately organised a provocation to clear Independence Square with blood and violence and to destroy the protests and the activists.”

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After late-night talks with Yanukovych on how to end the violence, Klitschko said there had been no resolution. “The government must immediately withdraw troops and put an end to the bloody conflict, because people are dying. I told Yanukovych this. How can we hold talks while blood is being shed?” Yanukovych is due to meet a trio of opposition leaders on Wednesday when he is expected to propose a new prime minister.

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There were reports that riot police were firing smoke and stun grenades. Opposition sources said police snipers were firing on demonstrators from rooftops. According to reports, security services began moving in at 8pm local time after announcing over loudspeakers that they were about to conduct “an anti-terror operation”.

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The foreign ministries of Ukraine and Russia earlier issued what appeared to be co-ordinated statements blaming Europe for fomenting the unrest. It appeared that the Kremlin had a hand in the political machinations behind the eruption and the crackdown. As well as blaming Europe for the rioting, it offered $2bn (£1.2m) to Yanukovych and sought to influence the appointment of the new prime minister.

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“The violent clashes today have to date resulted in deaths by bullets and hundreds of injuries, including seven people in a critical position,” said protesters in a statement.

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“Snipers posted on roofs are targeting the heads and chests of protesters. Ambulances blocked by security forces are not able to provide first aid to the injured,” it continued.

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Protesters, some of them armed with air pistols and petrol bombs, hurled bricks and paving stones at ranks of riot police, who used rubber bullets, smoke and stun grenades. Many of the injuries were said to have been head wounds from being struck by grenades.

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The EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said she was “deeply worried about the grave new escalation”. UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, called for restraint and dialogue, while Washington said it was appalled by the violence and demanded that Yanukovych must “de-escalate the situation”. Nato’s secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, urged “all parties to refrain from violence and to urgently resume dialogue, including through the parliamentary process”.

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While chaos and bloodshed reigned on the streets of central Kiev, there were also scenes of mayhem inside parliament, where opposition leaders sought to inaugurate moves curbing the powers of the president and making Ukraine more of a parliamentary than a presidential system.

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The opposition tried to table a resolution returning the country to its 2004 constitution, which would have given parliament the authority to appoint a new prime minister and cabinet and strip Yanukovych of many of his powers.

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The president’s allies in parliament simply blocked the move, refusing to have the resolution registered. Yanukovych orchestrated changes to the 2004 constitution after taking power in 2010 and vesting most powers in his own office.

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Earlier, several thousand nationalists led by the Svoboda [freedom] party converged on a park near the parliament and tried to move on the legislature, only to be blocked by riot police who also closed down the city centre metro system.

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The flare-up and apparent readiness for a draconian crackdown followed several days of signs that the crisis was ebbing and compromises were being reached.

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Protesters evacuated several buildings they had been occupying for months, including Kiev city hall, which was set ablaze.

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In recent days authorities have released more than 240 people detained during the unrest under an amnesty.

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Last November confrontation was sparked when Yanukovych abruptly ditched years of negotiations with the EU on a political and free trade pact, turning instead to Moscow for $15bn-worth of cheap loans and discounted gas supplies.

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Moscow promptly responded by buying $3bn-worth of Ukrainian bonds, but then stopped lending last month when Yanukovych sacrificed his pro-Kremlin prime minister, Mykola Azarov.

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The offer on Tuesday of a new $2bn loan was seen as tied to Yanukovych making the “right” choice for new prime minister.

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The swiftness of the Russian moves in seeking to outwit the EU in what rapidly snowballed into a contest for influence in Ukraine has exposed the lumbering nature of European diplomacy and policy-making in a crisis in a neighbouring state.

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The opposition leaders and protesters are seeking to unseat Yanukovych and force early presidential elections.

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Vitali Klitschko told parliament Yanukovych should “call snap presidential and parliamentary elections. Do it. It’s the only way to solve the issue.”

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Meet Pickles, The Three-Foot Long, 21-Pound House Cat (Pictures / Video)

Catasaurus Rex: Meet Pickles, The Three-Foot Rescue Cat Weighing 21 Pounds Who Doesn’t Realise His Own Size – Daily Mail

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When Pickles the puss grew to the size of a dog, he found himself in a bit of a pickle.

At 21 pounds and more than three-feet long, he couldn’t find an owner with a heart – or home – big enough to take him in – so he was forced to roam the streets in search of scraps to suppress his almighty appetite.

But the monster moggy – nicknamed Catasaurus Rex – has finally found a place to live after a young Boston couple saw an advert online and took pity on him.

Andrew Milicia and girlfriend Emily Zarvos say it was love at first sight when they met Pickles at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals last month.

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And now he couldn’t be happier as he spends most of his days squeezing sleepily onto their three-man sofa or guzzling platefulls of cat food to his heart’s content.

Andrew, a graphic designer, said: ‘When we first saw Pickles he looked like such a beast – but he looked really cool. He’s actually bigger than some dogs.

‘It didn’t take him long to make himself at home and now he takes up most of the couch when he’s laid out.’

The couple was picked from around 50 people who had applied to adopt Pickles after pictures were posted of him online.

The giant feline became an internet hit dubbed ‘Catasaurus Rex’ when he was advertised on the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals website.

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Andrew said: ‘We had no intension of adopting him when we went to see him but we just fell in love.

‘They said he had been adopted and taken to Canada but brought back because he really doesn’t get along with other cats.

‘He doesn’t realise his size so he’ll knock things over all the time – he’s so clumsy.

‘But it’s like so hard to be mad at him – he think he’s just like a little kitten still.’

It is thought Pickles might be part Maine Coon – one of the largest breeds of domestic cats.

And he is already proving to be a handful.

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Emily said: ‘I struggle to pick him up sometimes cause he weighs so much.

‘He loves hiding in the closet so when we go to work we put a stone statue in front of it to keep him out.

‘But when we come back the statue has been moved and he’s in the closet.

‘He’s like kind of like a dog when it comes to food – he’ll come in and sit right in front of you and just stare at you until the plates gone.

‘Everyone’s obviously first reaction is like wow that cat is huge.’

But despite the challenges of living with a monster moggy, the couple have no plans to take him back.

Emily said: ‘I’m so happy we have him, he’s the best pet you could hope for.’

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Within Hours Of FOIA Request For Bin Laden Death Pictures, Admiral McRaven Ordered Them Destroyed

Judicial Watch: Top Pentagon Leader Ordered Destruction Of Bin Laden Death Photos – Washongton Free Beacon

Judicial Watch announced Monday that it received documents through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit showing that Admiral William McRaven ordered the immediate destruction of any photos of Osama bin Laden’s death within hours of a Judicial Watch FOIA request.

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According to the Pentagon documents, McRaven sent his email on “Friday, May 13, 2011 5:09 PM.” The documents do not detail what documents, if any, were destroyed in response to the McRaven directive. The Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit seeking the documents was filed in the United States Court for the District of Columbia only hours earlier. Judicial Watch also announced the filing at a morning press conference. [...]

The move by McRaven to purge the photos appears to have come, at least in part, in response to aggressive efforts by Judicial Watch to obtain images of the deceased bin Laden that President Obama, in a rewrite of federal open records law, had refused to disclose. In addition to its May 2, 2011, FOIA request with the Pentagon Judicial Watch filed an identical request on May 3, 2011, with the CIA. When neither the Defense Department nor the CIA complied with the FOIA requests, Judicial Watch, in June 2011, filed FOIA lawsuits against both agencies. In the course of the litigation, the Pentagon claimed that it had “no records responsive to plaintiff’s request.”

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Tens Of Thousands March For End Of Abortion In Washington On Roe Anniversary (Pictures / Video)

Tens Of Thousands March For End Of Abortion In Washington On Roe Anniversary (Pictures) – LifeSiteNews

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Tens of thousands of pro-life activists endured frigid temperatures and a snow storm Wednesday as they gathered at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to mark the 41st anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that has prepared the way for an estimated 56 million abortions.

In past years the march has drawn crowds estimated between 400,000 and 650,000. However, the winter storm that blew through Washington on Tuesday led to cancellations of numerous buses and planes, creating a visible drop in numbers at this year’s rally and march. The Philadelphia archdiocese, for instance, canceled all of their buses.

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Famed Christian singer and songwriter Matt Maher was scheduled to lead music for a half hour before the rally, but his slot was cancelled because of the weather. Instead he opened and closed the rally beginning at noon.

Taking the stage to welcome the marchers shortly after noon, March for Life organizers insisted pro-lifers wouldn’t be daunted by the frigid weather in D.C. “We may be freezing, but we’re freezing for the best cause in the world,” said Patrick Kelly, chairman of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund. “No sacrifice is too great for this cause,” said Jeanne Monahan, the group’s newly minted president.

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Speakers at the rally included Dr. James Dobson, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), and Washington State Democratic Legislator Roger Freeman.

“Your faces are cold but your hearts are on fire, right?” Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, asked the crowd. He related that in 1973 he was driving home on the freeway when he learned of the Roe v. Wade decision. “I grieved over it because I knew it meant millions of babies would die,” he said. “Who would’ve known it would be 56 million by this point 41 years later?”

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Telling the story of a couple he counselled to choose life for their child, he told the crowd, “I say to you, if you’re facing a similar situation, …let your baby live!” He then marvelled at the youth of the crowd. “Look at the young people who are here!” he said. “You are the hope of the future and together we’re going to win this fight!”

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-VA, who changed his flight to Israel to attend the March, thanked those present for “braving these unbelievably cold temperatures” and “giving voice to our cause of protecting life.” “I believe that one day in the not too distance future our movement will be victorious because we will prevail in securing a culture of life,” he said.

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“You are our movement’s not-so-secret weapon,” he added. “Those of us in public office are merely fortunate to stand on your shoulders.”

The majority leader also announced that next week, the House of Representatives “will vote once and for all to end taxpayer funding for abortions.”

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Vicky Hartzler, R-MO, told marchers, “We are here today to remember the millions of lives devastated with abortion and to pledge ourselves anew to upholding the most fundamental” right, “the right to life.”

Noting there are 1.2 million abortion per year in the U.S., she said, “There are more babies who perish each year through abortion than people who live in an entire congressional district.”

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An adoptive mother, Hartzler said, “Every life is valuable and has a god ordained purpose. All babies are wanted.”

Giovanna Romero of Latinas por la Vida told marchers that blacks and Hispanics are “systematically targeted by the culture of death.” “Who is with me to fight the good fight?” she asked. “We are the pro-life generation and we will make a mark in history… We will make an end to abortion!”

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Donna Harrison, executive director of the American Association of Pro-Life Ob/Gyns, said the front lines of the abortion battle are changing. It’s no longer the clinic and the hospital, but the dorm room and campus clinic because of the promotion of emergency contraceptive drugs, which act as abortifacients. She told the youth, “you’ve now become the frontline in the battle against abortion.”

After the noon rally on the Mall, participants marched to the Supreme Court, where post-abortion men and women from the Silent No More Awareness Campaign shared their testimony.

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The rally schedule was shortened today because of the cold, with temperatures hovering around zero, the marchers are undaunted.

In a homily at Washington’s National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Tuesday evening, Cardinal Sean O’Malley said the cold weather is “just perfect, because the colder it is the better our witness. They will know we are serious. That is why we are here.”

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“We absolutely will go on tomorrow. The March has never been canceled because of extreme temperatures, and it won’t be canceled tomorrow for that reason,” Jeanne Monahan, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, told the Law of Life Summit on Tuesday.

March organizers highlighted the fact that members of both parties spoke, although Republicans made a stronger showing. The Republican National Committee has said they are delaying their annual winter meeting for the March this year and have chartered a bus to bring legislators to the Mall.

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The theme for this year’s march is adoption, which Monahan called a “heroic decision” for women in crisis pregnancies. “We want to eliminate the stigma of adoption and encourage women to pursue this noble option,” she said in a press release.

The March for Life organizers are encouraging Twitter users to use the hashtags #whywemarch and #marchforlife throughout the day.

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Related video:

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…………Click on image above to watch C-SPAN coverage of event.

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Villagers Flee As Indonesian Volcano Erupts More Than Fifty Times In One Night (Pictures / Video)

Thousands Of Villagers Evacuated In Indonesia After ?Volcano That Was Dormant For Over 400 Years Erupts More Than Fifty Times In One Night – Daily Mail

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Panicked residents of a mountainside village in western Indonesia were forced to scramble from their homes when a nearby volcano erupted late on Saturday night.

Women and children were packed into vans and driven away from Mount Sinabung as it spurted gas and lava just after midnight in Northern Sumatra province.

Natural disaster authorities said more than 50 eruptions occurred, with rocks and debris landing three miles away from the mountain, though no casualties have been reported.

The volcano was still spitting gas and lava as high as 13,00 feet this morning.

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A spokesman for the country’s disaster mitigation agency confirmed a danger zone had been mapped out at three miles from the crater’s mouth, but was extended an extra mile.

Soldiers joined rescue efforts in two village, Jewara and Pintu Besi, where houses and farms were covered in grey dust.

More than 20,000 people have been evacuated from villages surrounding the volcano and placed in temporary shelters since the crater’s alert status was heightened in November.

One man said: ‘We’ve lost everything.

‘We wonder about our lives after this disaster,’ said the father-of-four who is among those in a cramped shelter in Telegah village.

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The 8,530ft mountain has erupted sporadically since September. It had been dormant for over 400 years in 2010 when a sudden eruption killed two people.

Transportation Ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan said airlines had been notified to avoid routes near the mountain.

Mount Sinabung is among about 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on what is known as the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’.

The cluster of volcanoes in the basin of the Pacific Ocean is where 90 per cent of the world’s earthquakes and occur.

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*PICTURES* You Daley Gator Christmas Babes For 2013


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Car Fanatic Builds Himself A £5M McLaren F1 Supercar Out Of Scrap For £20,000 (Pictures/Video)

Car Fanatic Builds Himself A £5million McLaren F1 Supercar Out Of Scrap That Is Capable Of 200mph – Daily Mail

A Top Gear fan has completed the ultimate motor challenge – building a £5million supercar using scrap and spare parts.

Amateur mechanic Jacek Mazur, 48, made his own replica McLaren F1 for just £20,000. The real thing would cost 250 times as much.

Mr Mazur, from Zabrze, Poland, spent eight years building the replica car, which can hit speeds of up to 200mph.

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His previous projects have included building his own Lamborghini Countach and a Porsche 911 – but the British-designed McLaren F1 has been his ‘ultimate’ success.

Just 106 of the supercars are thought to exist and are out of reach for anyone unable to part with several million pounds.

In August this year, one sold for a staggering £5.1million at classic car auction Gooding & Company.

Mr Mazur, a health-and-safety advisor, said ‘As soon as I saw the McLaren F1 for the first time, I knew I had to have one. I couldn’t afford it so I knew I would have to build one myself.

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‘Now when I am in my car people just stop and start taking pictures.

‘It is like being on a date with Angelina Jolie or Sandra Bullock in the centre of New York.’

He added: ‘In some ways it is actually better having a replica. The real thing is so expensive I would be afraid to take it anywhere for fear of getting it dirty.’

The incredible McLaren F1 has been built with the help of more than 30 of his friends and family.

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He used the engine from an Audi and the brakes from a Mercedes.

The father-of-two also spent hours online researching photographs of the car and on blogs so that he could build his own parts and the streamlined shell of the vehicle.

Mr Mazur even paid tribute to his favourite TV show by building a tiny rear seat for Top Gear co-host Richard Hammond.

He said: ‘I named it the Hamonda in his honour. It is the same size as for a child but I’m sure Richard could be a fit.’

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Despite spending thousands of hours in his garage he has managed to keep the support of his wife, Gosia.

She said: ‘This is his passion. Ever since I have known him he has loved cars.

‘He does spend a lot of time with them but it is better than him just sitting in the pub or doing something useless and boring.’

The McLaren F1 was designed by British engineer Gordon Murray and first built in 1991.

In 1998 it set the record for he world’s fastest production car in the world with a speed of 231mph.

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Dumbass Felon Faces 142 Criminal Charges After Posting Incriminating Pictures Of Himself Online

When You’re Breaking Enough Laws To Result In 142 Charges, This Is The Last Thing You Do… Unless You’re This Guy – The Blaze

While a life of crime is certainly not the way to go, almost every criminal has to know that it’s a bad idea to post incriminating photos on social media while thoroughly breaking the law. It’s an especially bad idea for a criminal who, at any given moment, is breaking enough laws to result in 142 charges.

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Well, apparently Depree Johnson was never taught that lesson. It will not come as a surprise that he is currently incarcerated, and will likely stay behind bars for quite some time.

Police in Palm Beach County, Fla., reportedly suspected Johnson of organizing a number of “dinner time” burglaries in the Boynton Beach area, WPBF.com reports. Investigators got more than enough probable cause to go pick him up after he posted several incriminating “selfies” on Instagram.

Using the username “duce22ceritfied” (yes, “certified” is misspelled), Johnson posted several pictures of himself posing with guns, drugs and cash. He is a convicted felon, therefore not permitted to possess a firearm.

When police finally ended up at Johnson’s home in Lake Worth, Fla., they discovered “numerous pieces of jewelry,” including “watches, charms, necklaces and loose diamonds, as well as two stolen firearms.” In the end, investigators recovered about $250,000 worth of stuff.

Johnson reportedly faces 142 charges in total, including weapons and ammunition possession by a convicted felon.

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Rescue Operations Launched Across Britain As 140mph Arctic Storm Wreaks Havoc (Pictures / Videos)

Rescue Operations Launched Across Britain As 140mph Arctic Storms Leave 120,000 Homes Without Power, Pedestrians Blown To The Ground And Thousands Stranded In Several Feet Of Water – Daily Mail

Thousands of people have been evacuated and hundreds rescued today as 140mph winds battered Britain in a hurricane-force storm.

A lorry driver died in Scotland and a man riding a mobility scooter in King’s Park in Retford, Nottinghamshire, was also killed when hit by a falling tree.

More than 120,000 homes were left without power as the most serious tidal surge for 60 years is predicted to hit the east coast tonight.

More than 10,000 homes in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex are being evacuated, while residents were also rescued in Rhyl, North Wales, and Merseyside.

As they were taken away from their homes in dinghies, forecasters feared the worst is yet to come during tonight’s high tide at around 10pm.

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More than 240 flood alerts were in place across England and Wales, with 6,000 homes expected to suffer from flooding in the next 24 hours.

Sea levels could be as high as those during the floods of 1953 that left 307 dead, although defences have significantly improved since then.

The lorry driver died and four other people were hurt when his HGV fell onto cars on the A801 in West Lothian as winds disrupted transport networks.

This morning the entire rail network in Scotland was suspended, with trains halted at their nearest stations and passengers told to disembark.

Motorists in Scotland have also been warned not to travel due to ‘extremely dangerous’ road conditions.

Transport Scotland has escalated its travel warning to stage four red, advising people to avoid travelling, particularly in high-sided vehicles.

Closures, fallen trees, minor accidents and incidents of flash flooding are affecting the road network in the south, west, central and Perthshire areas.

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Homes in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, were evacuated after officials warned that the lives of people in the region could be at risk from the tidal surge.

Wave and surfing expert Ed Temperley, editor of global surf forecasting website Magic Seaweed (MSW) explained: ‘A tidal surge is effectively a wind and pressure driven rise in the sea level. This can be exacerbated by waves associated with the storm and particularly at high tide.’

More than 1,000 homes in Suffolk are to be evacuated ahead of tonight’s tidal surge. Essex Police added that parts of Jaywick, a small seaside village near Clacton, will also be evacuated.

The Environment Agency (EA) has issued three severe flood warnings for parts of the seaside town – the highest category, warning of danger to life.

Down the east coast, the EA has issued 26 severe flood warnings as high tides and strong winds threatened to swamp the coastline.

A Herne Bay Coastguard spokesman in Kent said high tides are forecast at 2.30am and 2.45pm tomorrow – and these are expected to coincide with a large coastal surge.

Officials at the Port of Dover in Kent said they have conducted a full-scale inspection of the port estate to assess the potential impact of any bad weather.

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Speaking to MPs, Commons Leader Andrew Lansley said Prime Minister David Cameron and Environment Secretary Owen Paterson were ‘very aware’ of the risks the storm posed.

He said: ‘The Prime Minister, (Mr Paterson) and other ministers are very aware of the risk associated with a surge tide and the current storm.

‘Many of our constituents are already experiencing the effects of that storm. I can’t say at this stage when (Mr Paterson) may be able to update the House as he will at this moment be engaged in ensuring that every measure that can be taken, is taken to help support those who may be affected.’

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His comments followed a question from Therese Coffey, Tory MP for Suffolk Coastal.

In a question to Mr Lansley in the Commons, she said: ‘A few weeks ago St Jude’s Storm resulted in several thousand households in Suffolk being disconnected from electricity.

‘Today, the storm that is gathering in Scotland is coming to Suffolk, where the entire coast line is under a severe flood warning.

‘I know the Prime Minister has asked (Mr Paterson) to chair a Cobra meeting. Will you say when (Mr Paterson) will come to the House to make a statement?’

Mr Paterson is chairing a meeting of the Government’s emergency Cobra (Cabinet Office Briefing Room A) committee to discuss the response to the storm, Mr Cameron said earlier.

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The Prime Minister said on Twitter: ‘I’ve asked Environment Secretary Owen Paterson to chair a Cobra this morning on the storm disruption – ensuring everything is being done.’

Some 120,000 homes were left without power this morning as rain and winds gusting up to 140mph battered Scotland.

The Met Office said there had been severe gales of between 60mph and 80mph across Scotland and northern parts of England, and some mountainous regions in Aberdeenshire and Inverness-shire reported speeds of around 140mph.

This Scotland rail network was suspended after Network Rail said debris on lines and damage to equipment meant it was not safe to operate any services.

Train companies in England were operating amended timetables and the bad weather hit a number of flights. Closures, fallen trees, minor accidents and incidents of flash flooding are affecting the road network in parts of the country.

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Natural Resources Wales, the organisation which leads on flooding in Wales, is urging people along the North Wales coast to take ‘immediate action’ to protect themselves and their properties.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has issued flood warnings to 14 regions and alerts to a further 13 areas.

The EA has so far issued 26 severe flood warnings in England and two in Wales – which are only issued when flooding poses a ‘significant threat to life’. Officials said that more severe warnings are expected in coming hours.

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The agency said communities along the North Sea coast from Northumberland to the Thames Estuary and Kent, in addition to those on the Irish Sea coast from Cumbria down to Cheshire, could see significant coastal flooding later today and into Friday.

A spokesman said in some areas sea levels could be higher than those during the devastating floods of 1953, but defences built since then – including the Thames and Hull barriers – mean that many parts of the country are much better protected.

The Thames Barrier will be closed tonight, it has been confirmed. However, some coastal flood defences could be ‘overtopped’ by the combined effect of high tides, high winds and a large tidal surge, the spokesman said.

The coastline from Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk to Clacton, Essex – including Great Yarmouth – is ‘particularly at risk’.

Anne Edwards, editor of the Great Yarmouth Mercury, was one of those told to leave their homes tonight, but is determined to ride out the storm with sandbags and supplies.

She was awoken by an alert call from the Environment Agency at 6.30am, warning of severe flooding in the area of her home, which is a mile from the coast.

Ms Edwards, who believes hundreds of homes are being evacuated, said: ‘We’re staying put. The house we live in was flooded in 1953 and there’s a four-and-a-half foot-high water line in the dining room from then.

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‘We always knew we might be at risk of flooding, so there is a camping stove upstairs and we have water and cans of food. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. We can go upstairs, it’s not going to kill us.’

She said she went into a ‘mad panic’ at receiving the automated call this morning and hunted for her home insurance policy. Her husband has bought sandbags and the couple have containers ready to fill with fresh water.

She said: ‘I’m going to get the paper out then go home for dinner, but then I’ll be back in the office later. I’ve got my wellies ready.’

John Curtin, the Environment Agency’s head of incident management, said: ‘Flooding of coastal communities along the eastern and north-west coasts is expected today and into Friday.

‘Some defences could be overtopped by the combined effect of high tides, high winds and a large tidal surge.

‘Our teams have been out in force checking that flood defences and barriers are in good working order, monitoring sea levels and issuing flood warnings. Coastal paths and promenades will be highly dangerous as there is an increased risk of people being swept out to sea.’

A major traffic route into a city centre was closed today following warnings of high winds.

Leeds City Council took the decision to shut the road past the 367ft Bridgewater Place tower – the tallest building in Yorkshire – after predictions that wind speeds in the area could reach 75mph.

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The move follows a recommendation made yesterday by a coroner at the inquest into the death of Edward Slaney who was hit by a lorry that flew through the air in windy conditions in March 2011.

Following a lengthy inquest which examined the tower’s influence on wind conditions in the area, Leeds Deputy Coroner Melanie Williamson said she was recommending the junction at its base should be shut to all road users when wind speeds reach 45mph.

Leeds City Council said it was closing the junction at 6am until the winds subside. The road is the main route into Leeds from the south and links the city centre and railway stations to the M1, M621 and M62 motorways.

Scottish Hydro Electric said more than 80,000 homes across the north of Scotland have suffered power cuts. The worst affected areas are the Highlands, Tayside and Argyll, with road blockages slowing work to reconnect people.

The company says it has mobilised 1,000 engineers and support staff and that power has since been restored to around 3,000 homes.

A further 50,000 properties were cut off in central and southern Scotland at the storm’s peak, Scottish Power said. Power has now been restored to around 28,000 properties.

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Uprooted trees and other debris have been blown on to overhead power lines, causing damage and bringing down the lines in some areas.

The company said around 500 staff are working to fix the faults, including extra engineers drafted in from England.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has issued 11 flood warnings throughout Scotland.

Severe flood warnings are in place for Skye and Lochaber, Caithness and Sutherland, Tayside, Central Scotland, Fife and Edinburgh and the Lothians.

The AA said its severe weather team was being deployed in Scotland to deal with coastal flooding.

Darron Burness, head of the AA’s flood rescue team, said: ‘Coastal flooding is particularly dangerous because of the risk of high waves and very fast-moving water.

‘I would particularly warn motorists to avoid coastal routes where the combination of high winds and flooding with sea water will be life-threatening.’

Many bridges have been closed to traffic, including the Forth Road Bridge, A898 Erskine Bridge, Dornoch Bridge and Skye Bridge

The Kessock Bridge at Inverness is closed to high-sided vehicles, police said.

Numerous roads are closed in the Highlands while debris is cleared, including the A82 at Torlundy, the A830 Mallaig road, the A86 Newtonmore to Laggan road and Grant Street in Inverness.

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The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said it was responding to a high number of calls relating to fallen trees and road blockages throughout Scotland.

Caledonian MacBrayne ferry services are affected by the high winds and some flights have been delayed or diverted.

An easyJet spokesman said a flight from Bristol to Edinburgh was diverted to Newcastle and a Gatwick flight to Glasgow was diverted to Manchester. A flight to Aberdeen returned to Gatwick due to high winds, she said.

Glasgow Central station was evacuated due to debris smashing glass in the roof. No one was hurt and arriving passengers were escorted from the station. Winds reached 59mph in Edinburgh and 63mph in Glasgow.

John Hutchinson, a senior forecaster with MeteoGroup, said winds were expected to moderate after about 10am but snow was likely to replace rain in northern areas.

‘We have a band of heavy rain with some much colder air coming in behind that, especially across northern areas, so there will be snow showers,’ he said. ‘The colder air is flooding down from the north.’

Police Scotland said snow is affecting the B976 Crathie to Gairnshiel road in Aberdeenshire. The fire service in the east of Scotland said it had dealt with 63 incidents between 7am and 10am.

These included five road accidents, two reports of trees falling on vehicles and 12 relating to dangerous structures such as falling chimneys and slates.

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Motorists in the Lothians, Edinburgh, Borders, Fife and Forth Valley have been warned not to drive until the high winds subside.

A 61-year-old man was taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after being struck by a falling tree in the Meadows. His injuries are not thought to be life-threatening.

A tree also fell on a car in the city’s Quality Street but no one was hurt. A woman was taken to Hairmyres Hospital in South Lanarkshire after a tree fell on a taxi in Bothwell Road, Hamilton.

The Southern General Hospital in Glasgow has been affected by the severe wind, with part of the roof around the helipad blown away.

Police Scotland reported an explosion at an electricity substation in Coatbridge. No one was hurt.

Lorries were blown over on the M74 at Douglas, South Lanarkshire, and on the A83 at Rest and Be Thankful in Argyll and Bute.

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As the winds subsided in some parts police reduced their warning to motorists but said there remained a high risk of disruption. Drivers in the Dumfries and Galloway area were still advised to avoid travel completely for the time being.

A spokesman said: ‘The police are advising drivers that conditions for travel are extremely poor and there is a high risk of disruption for road journeys in Scotland. If you do travel, you are likely to experience significant delays.’

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, thousands of homes are still without power after gale force winds ripped down trees, power lines and electricity poles.

Gusts of up to 70mph which swept in from the Atlantic have left parts of the north, east and exposed rural areas facing major blackouts.

Energy company NIE said the damage was caused by flying debris and high winds and its latest figures estimate that around 7,000 properties are currently without electricity.

Specialist incident centres have been set up while additional emergency crews and engineers have been drafted in to resolve the 200 faults on the network.

An NIE spokesman said: ‘Damage has been caused by flying debris and high winds, including broken electricity lines and damage to poles and other equipment.’

More than 15,000 homes had power supplies restored overnight. She added: ‘There may also be further faults which have not yet been reported to Northern Ireland Electricity and adverse weather conditions, which could cause additional faults, are due to continue for the next few hours.’

A number of ferry crossings were also expected to be disrupted including the P&O Larne to Cairnryan service. The company has advised customers to check the helpline before setting off on their journey.

All sailings between Ballycastle and Rathlin off the Co Antrim coast were cancelled for the day.

Translink, which operates the public transport network, said train services to Londonderry and Larne had been impacted by the bad weather with some passengers having to travel by bus because of debris on the railway lines.

Meanwhile, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has urged motorists to drive with extreme caution as a result of the adverse weather conditions.

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The Crawfordsburn and Rathgael Roads in Bangor were closed because of fallen trees as were the Spa Road, Ballynahinch, Mearne Road, Downpatrick and Castleward Road, Downpatrick.

In Belfast, morning rush hour traffic faced further congestion because the Antrim Road was blocked by a fallen tree at Kincraig Park. The Ormeau Embankment in the south of the city was only passable with care.

In Londonderry, high winds forced the closure of the Foyle Bridge but it has since re-opened. The main Coleraine to Limavady Road was also shut due to fallen trees while in Co Tyrone the Sweep Road in Cookstown was shut due to an unsafe roof on a building.

Di Standley, chief executive of the Royal Life Saving Society UK, said: ‘Whether it is coastal flooding, swollen rivers or general floodwater on roads and pathways, it is vital people follow simple, common sense, steps during periods of flooding to help ensure they, and their families, stay safe.

‘Apart from trying to go about their daily business during floods, people are often curious to see flooded areas but this can be dangerous, and drivers may take risks driving through floodwater, unaware of levels of depth. It is vital not to underestimate the power of floodwater.

‘The RLSS UK calling on everyone to be proactive and to learn about water safety to protect themselves and their loved-ones.’

Meanwhile, the body of a fisherman was pulled from the sea off the Cornish coast after a search lasting three hours last night.

The man, understood to be in his 60s and from a small village on the Lizard peninsula, was plucked from the water off Cadgwith shortly before 8pm.

Police are still investigating but it is thought the man had been fishing alone in his own boat. The death is currently unexplained, a spokesman said.

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Deadly Storms Spawn Dozens Of Twisters In Midwest (Pictures/Video)

Deadly Storms Spawned More Than 80 Tornadoes In Midwest – Chicago Tribune

The scale of Sunday’s deadly storms became clearer this morning: Six people dead in Illinois, hundreds of homes flattened and splintered, 81 tornadoes sighted through the Midwest, 358 reports of damaging winds, 40 reports of large hail.

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Since 1986, there have been 194 tornado warnings issued in the month of November in Illinois: More than half of them, 101, were issued Sunday, according to the Chicago Weather Center.

As crews fanned out from the National Weather Service to assess the storm’s impact, WGN-TV meteorologist Tom Skilling said it may go down as one of the most powerful to hit the region in decades.

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“It appears the storm may have produced the most powerful Illinois November tornado on record outside of St. Louis (and possibly elsewhere) and may be one of the four most intense Great Lakes storms of the past five decades,” he said.

Hardest hit was Washington, a town of 15,000 people east of Peoria hit by an EF-4 tornado packing winds of 170 to 190 mph. Whole blocks were leveled, prompting the Illinois National Guard to send a 10-person firefighting and search and rescue team. Officials were still trying to determine the extent of injuries Sunday evening, but at least one death was reported and nearly 80 people injured.

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The one person who died was identified Monday by the Tazewell County coroner as Steve Neubauer, 51, of Washington, who was found near his home on School Street in Washington.

“The devastation is just unbelievable,” said Mayor Gary Manier, estimating as many as 500 homes may have been damaged in his town. “I can’t imagine people walked away from these places.”

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Farther south, a powerful tornado ravaged Washington County, obliterating farms and livestock and killing Joseph Hoy, 80, and his sister Frances Hoy, 78, according to Coroner Mark Styninger.

Joseph Hoy’s body was found in a field about 100 yards east of his farmhouse. His sister’s body was found inside the home beneath debris, he said. “(Joseph Hoy’s) house was blown away by a tornado,” said Styninger, who knew the siblings personally. “They were just very nice people.”

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The National Weather Service said an EF-4 tornado slammed into the county with winds of 166 to 200 miles per hour.

Three other deaths were reported in Massac County at the southern tip of the state. The small town of Brookport was hit hard, with hundreds of homes damaged, officials said. Buildings were smashed into piles of rubble. Power lines were strewn through the town. A curfew has been issued from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

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“We opened the door and started looking around. My friend had come over and a tree had landed on top of his car, broke out a couple windows. The house next to us, a tree fell through their roof,” one man said.

Closer to Chicago, in Grundy County, an EF-2 tornado touched down in the Coal City area near Joliet with wind speeds of 111 to 135 mph, the National Weather Service said. Hundreds of homes were damaged, and a subdivision in the community of Diamond was ordered evacuated.

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Lisa Glisson rushed to a dance studio to check on her two children in Diamond. Then the tornado sirens went off. She said one teen at the studio invited everyone to her house to seek shelter in its basement, so about 30 children piled into cars and sped off for safety.

“You could feel the change in the air,” Glisson said. “You could hear the wind going over and it just felt heavy, surrounding you.”

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Gov. Patrick Quinn has declared seven counties disaster areas: Champaign, Grundy, LaSalle, Massac, Tazewell, Washington and Woodford counties.

Quinn plans to visit the communities of Washington, Diamond, Gifford, Brookport and New Minden, according to a statement from his office.

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The Illinois Emergency Management Agency is coordinating efforts with other state agencies to help affected areas, according to Quinn’s office.

About 19,000 customers still lack electricity following the storm, according to ComEd. Only 1,300 of those customers are in Chicago. The rest are mostly in the utility’s southern region – 11,200 – with about 1,000 down in the north region and 5,400 in the west region.

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Street-Legal Replica Of 1989 Batmobile Has Jaguar Engine And Working Flamethrower (Pictures/Video)

Road-Legal Batmobile Based On Car Used In Iconic 1989 Batman Film Has 3.2litre Jaguar Engine And Comes Complete With Working Flamethrower – Daily Mail

If you’ve a Batman fan in your life and you don’t know what to buy them for Christmas, it would be hard to do better than this: a life-size, fully-functional Batmobile.

Costing £90,000, which is considerably less than the £2.3million paid for the original TV Batmobile earlier this year, this replica with a straight six, fuel-injected modern Jaguar 3.2 litre engine with automatic transmission is practically a bargain.

The jet black machine with functional flame-thrower at the back is based on the Batmobile driven by Michael Keaton’s caped crusader in the 1989 blockbuster, and will be one of the star lots when it goes up for auction in Weybridge, Surrey, at the end of the month.

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Built in the UK on custom chassis, the rear-wheel drive Batmobile comes complete with a fully operational flame thrower and hydraulic suspension which can raise the car by a further nine inches.

It is claimed the car will hit 60mph in less than five seconds, although the visibility has been compared to that of a fighter jet.

The replica, which took a year to build, was inspired by the 1989 Batman rather than the recent Christopher Nolan trilogy.

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In the film, Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego goes up against Jack Nicholson’s Joker character, who wreaks havoc on the people of Gotham City.

The car will go up for sale at the Historics car auction on 30 November, and is expected to sell for between £70,000 and £90,000.

Edward Bridger-Stille, from Historics, said: ‘The car is like a dream for any Batman fan. It brings traffic to a standstill with people wanting to be photographed by it.

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‘It is a smooth-driving car, however there’s not a lot of all-round vision – it’s a bit like a fighter jet in that sense.

‘But it also quite quick thanks to its lightweight fibreglass body, and should be capable of 0-60mph in less than five seconds.

‘This vehicle is believed to be one of the best after-production, fully road-legal models ever made.’

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Typhoon Haiyan: Bodies Piled In Streets As Makeshift Mortuaries Are Overrun… Death Toll To ‘Rise Sharply’

Bodies Piled In The Streets As Makeshift Mortuaries Are Overrun And Philippine Typhoon Rescue Teams Warn Death Toll Will ‘Rise Sharply’ From The 10,000 Already Confirmed – Daily Mail

Thousands of bodies are being piled up on the streets of the Philippines after the devastating Typhoon Haiyan, as aid agencies warn the death toll will ‘rise sharply’.

Police and soldiers have the grim task of searching through the wreckage for bodies after entire villages and parts of cities were flattened.

Makeshift mortuaries, set up in remaining intact buildings like churches, are overrun and body bags are being left outside in rows.

Tens of millions of pounds worth of aid has been pledged by countries around the world and agencies say as many as 10million people in the developing country are in need of basic supplies such as shelter, clean water and food.

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Thousands of children have been killed in the category-five storm and one charity worker said two out of every five corpses she had seen were youngsters.

Lynette Lim, the Asia communications manager for Save the Children said: ‘The water was knee high and there were bodies floating in the streets. I saw several dead children.

‘Children are particularly vulnerable in disasters. We fear for how many children have been washed away in floods, crushed under falling buildings and injured by flying debris. Many are separated from their families amid the devastation, and all are in desperate need of food, water and shelter.’

In the worst-hit areas, 235mph winds created 20ft waves that are thought to have killed between 10,000 and 15,000 and left 500,000 homeless after their houses were reduced to splinters.

Super-typhoon Haiyan struck with such force on Friday that entire villages were flattened, ships were swept inland and corpses were left hanging from trees.

Desperate survivors of the devastating Philippines typhoon told how they had to steal from the dead to eat.

The Disasters Emergency Committee, made up of 14 UK charities, has made an emergency appeal for funds as fears continue that the death toll from the typhoon will rise and it is estimated that more than 10 million people will be left in need of aid.

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The UK is deploying a Royal Navy warship and donating £10 million of humanitarian assistance in aid for the victims, Prime Minister David Cameron said.

Britain will also deploy RAF military transport aircraft to aid recovery efforts, earmarking at least one C-17 cargo plane to move humanitarian aid and large equipment.

David Cameron said: ‘We continue to help around the world – as we are today in the Philippines where Typhoon Haiyan has wrought such appalling devastation.

‘Britain is contributing £10 million and HMS Daring, currently deployed near Singapore, will shortly be heading at full speed towards the disaster zone with further support from an RAF C-17 which will be a powerful help to the relief operation.’

Britain is providing forklift trucks, cutting equipment and 4x4s to help clear and re-open runways and roads.

Temporary shelters, blankets and water purification tablets for 300,000 people are also being sent, as well as essential household goods like buckets, soap and sanitary items.

Meanwhile, Australia announced assistance of 10 million Australian dollars (£5.8 million) and the US government is organising emergency shipments of critically needed material and issuing an immediate 100,000 US dollars (£62,000) for relief efforts.

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The United Nations today began an appeal for about £200million in aid to help people hit by the huge typhoon.

‘We’ve just launched an action plan focusing on the areas of food, health, sanitation, shelter, debris removal and also protection of the most vulnerable with the government and I very much hope our donors will be generous,’ humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told reporters in Manila

Japan said it will fly a relief team over to the ravaged country and Taiwan is sending 200,000 US dollars (£125,000) in aid.

The USS George Washington, which carries 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft, has also been deployed by America to help distribute aid and evacuate injured survivors.

Handicap International said it was sending a team of emergency specialists to support the organisation’s staff already working in the country. These specialists will help the most vulnerable individuals, such as people with disabilities, older people and children.

‘The devastation is worse than in Bandah Aceh, Indonesia, following the 2004 tsunami,’ Edith van Wijngaarden, the charity’s programme director in the Philippines, said.

‘I’m particularly worried about the most vulnerable individuals. When nothing is left standing and the local infrastructure has been destroyed, people with disabilities, older people and children are particularly vulnerable.’

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Tim Harding, from Sunderland, said he was one of many foreigners who were volunteering at a Manila Red Cross centre.

Mr Harding said he had planned to have a holiday with his wife, who is originally from the Philippines, but it had instead become a volunteer mission.

‘It’s good to see everyone getting on, doing a job where race, nationality, income level, nothing matters at all,’ he said.

‘There’s only one priority here and that’s to get together, get stuck in and do the greater good.’

Mr Harding said he would help wherever he could for the next few weeks, a mindset shared by other foreigners hailing from not only the UK, but elsewhere in Europe and the world.

‘There’s a lot of panic going on here,’ he said.

‘Although we just got some good news a few minutes ago that a three-year-old child had actually been rescued in the debris at a place in Tacloban city. There was a big cheer that went up.’

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Even as families began to grieve for their dead, they faced a grim battle to find shelter and forage for food and clean water.

‘Everywhere we went, people told us between 10 and 50 people had been killed in their communities,’ said Miss Lim told The Telegraph.

‘Most of the families who had decided to evacuate ahead of the storm left one member behind to guard their homes and possessions. Unfortunately, most of them died.’

Dazed survivors walked the streets ‘like zombies looking for food’ while looters ransacked shops and mobs attacked aid trucks loaded with food, tents and water.

Reports of lawless gangs targeting ATMs and electrical shops forced President Benigno Aquino to deploy police and army troops to the area to restore calm.

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He sent ‘a column of armoured vehicles’ to Tacloban to show the ‘government’s resolve and to stop this looting.’

Many areas were left without clean water, electricity or food and relief workers said some regions were cut off for days after the storm hit.

The death toll may soar once the true extent of the damage is known.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said: ‘The scenes of utter devastation in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan are shocking in their scale and we know that the survivors, especially vulnerable children and women, now face a grim and uncertain future.

‘Britain is determined to stand by the Philippines and we have now pledged a total of £10 million to get 800,000 people the food, water and shelter they urgently need.

‘On top of this, we are deploying the destroyer HMS Daring and at least one RAF C-17 to the disaster zone to give powerful help to the relief operation and get aid to the areas that are hardest to reach and where the need is greatest.’

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he told Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario that the United States is fully committed to helping the Philippines recover from one of the most powerful typhoons on record.

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In the province of Leyte, 10,000 are feared to have died in Tacloban, 580km (360 miles) southeast of Manila, where survivors said waves hit their homes ‘like a tsunami’, destroying everything.

Reports from one town showed apocalyptic scenes of destruction in another region that has not been reached by rescue workers or the armed forces.

‘The situation is bad, the devastation has been significant. In some cases the devastation has been total,’ Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras told a news conference.

The United Nations said officials in Tacloban, which bore the brunt of the storm on Friday, had reported one mass grave of 300-500 bodies.

More than 600,000 people were displaced by the storm across the country and some have no access to food, water, or medicine, the UN says.

Flattened by surging waves and monster winds up to 235 mph (378 kph), Tacloban was relying almost entirely for supplies and evacuation on just three military transport planes flying from nearby Cebu city.

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Dozens of residents clamoured for help at the airport gates.

‘Help us, help us. Where is President Aquino? We need water, we are very thirsty,’ shouted one woman. ‘When are you going to get bodies from the streets?’

Haiyan is estimated to have destroyed about 70 to 80 percent of structures in its path as it tore into the coastal provinces of Leyte and Samar. The damage to the coconut- and rice-growing region was expected to amount to more than 3 billion pesos ($69 million), Citi Research said in a report, with ‘massive losses’ for private property.

Most of the damage and deaths were caused by huge waves that inundated towns and swept away coastal villages in scenes that officials likened to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Bodies litter the streets of the Tacloban, rotting and swelling under the hot sun and adding to the health risk.

International aid agencies said relief resources in the Philippines were stretched thin after a 7.2 magnitude quake in central Bohol province last month and displacement caused by a conflict with Muslim rebels in southern Zamboanga province.

Teacher Andrew Pomeda, 36, added: ‘Tacloban is totally destroyed. Some people are losing their minds from hunger or losing their families. People are becoming violent.’

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Despite mass burials, the dead remain piled by roads and trapped under wreckage. Families clawing at the ruins to find survivors or food were overpowered by the reek of the rotting bodies.

Village councillor and father-of-four Edward Gualberto said he stepped on corpses as he took food from the remains of their homes.

He added: ‘I am a decent person. But if you have not eaten in three days, you do shameful things to survive. We have no food, we need water. This typhoon has stripped us of our dignity, but I still have my family and I am grateful for that.’

Medical student Jenny Chu said families had gone without food and water for days, saying: ‘People are walking like zombies looking for food. It’s like a movie.’

Survivors queued for handouts of rice, covering their faces with rags to keep the stench of death out.

Shopkeepers said looters forced their way into stores that had survived the storm, only to be ransacked. There were reports of ATM machines being broken open.

Soldiers are trying to restore order but pastry shop owner Emma Bermejo said: ‘People are dirty, hungry and thirsty. A few more days and they will begin to kill each other. This is shameful. We have been hit by a catastrophe and now our businesses are gone. Looted. I can understand if they take our food and water, they can have it. But TV sets? Washing machines?’

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One young mother fought tears as she told how the typhoon killed 11 members of her family, including her two-year-old daughter.

Jenny Dela Cruz, who is eight months pregnant, added: ‘All we can do is survive the day, but I don’t know what will happen tomorrow or the day after – or if we can continue surviving.’

Thousands more people were reported missing in neighbouring Samar province and almost half a million people were left homeless, according to the national disaster agency.

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said the devastation was overwhelming, adding: ‘It’s really horrific. It’s a great human tragedy.’

Aerial photographs revealed scenes of utter devastation with few buildings left standing.

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An average of 20 major storms or typhoons, many of them deadly, hit the Philippines each year.

The developing country is particularly vulnerable because it is often the first major landmass for the storms after they build over the Pacific Ocean.

The Philippine government and some scientists have said climate change may be increasing the ferocity and frequency of storms.

Others say Pacific waters were an important reason for the strength of Haiyan, but added it was premature to blame climate change based on the scant historical data available.

The poverty-stricken country has already endured a year of earthquakes and floods, with no fewer than 24 disastrous weather events.

The Philippines suffered the world’s strongest storm of 2012, when Typhoon Bopha left about 2,000 people dead or missing on the southern island of Mindanao.

The Philippines has known disaster at the hands of mother nature as recently as 2011 when typhoon Washi killed 1,200 people, displaced 300,000 and destroyed more than 10,000 homes.

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Typhoon Haiyan Feared To Have Killed 10,000 Filipinos; Vietnam And China Prepare For The Worst (Pictures/Video)

Typhoon Haiyan Feared To Have Killed Ten Thousand Filipinos As Vietnam And China Now Prepare For The Worst – Daily Mail

The death toll from one of the most powerful storms on record could reach 10,000 according to officials.

So far Typhoon Haiyan is said to have killed 1,200 people in the Philippines and left many more injured, but the figure could rise dramatically after the full devastation of the ferocious storm was realised.

According to the Red Cross, 1,000 have been left dead in the devastated city of Tacloban on the island of Leyte with a further 200 casualties in Samar Province.

Regional police chief Elmer Soria said he was briefed by Leyte provincial Govenor Dominic Petilla late last night and told there were about 10,000 deaths on the island, mostly by drowning and from collapsed buildings.

About four million people are believed to have been affected by the category five storm, according to the country’s national disaster agency. This figure includes 800,000 who had to be evacuated before the storm struck.

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Winds of up to 235mph and gusts of 170mph left a trail of destruction – triggering major landslides, knocking out power and communications and causing catastrophic widespread damage. Hundreds of homes have been flattened and scores of streets flooded.

The storm is now moving towards mainland Asian and is expected to reach Vietnam coastal areas on Sunday morning while humanitarian experts estimate the number of casualties will rise considerably.

Weather forecasts have also predicted more bad weather could be on the way to the Philippines at the beginning of next week, with high winds expected to arrive on Monday.

The Foreign Office in the Philippines’ capital Manila has had no reports of British casualties but it is feared thousands have been left stranded as a result.

About 15,000 British nationals are said to live on the islands and every year 65,000 visit tourist hotspots like northern Cebu Province and Boracay Island, both of which have been savaged by the storm.

Vietnamese authorities have begun evacuating 100,000 people as they prepare to face the full force of the ferocious weather. ‘The evacuation is being conducted with urgency,’ disaster official Nguyen Thi Yen Linh said from central Danang City, where some 76,000 were being moved to safety.

Around 300,000 others have been taken to shelters in the provinces of Quang Ngai, Quang Nam and Thua Thien Hue. Schools were closed and two deputy prime ministers were sent to the region to direct preparations.

The army has been brought in to provide emergency relief with some 170,000 soldiers assisting people after the typhoon hits.

Haiyan is likely to be a category two or three storm when it hits the Vietnamese coast, but the Red Cross has warned some 6.5 million people in in the country could be affected.

It is expected to reach Da Nang province tomorrow morning before moving up the country’s west coast and eventually making its way to the capital, Hanoi.

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Weather experts predict the country will experience sea surges, strong winds and up to two feet of rain, triggering massive floods.

Chinese authorities have also issued a level three emergency response throughout the country, ordering fisherman to shelter their boats to prevent any damage.

It will be the 30th typhoon to hit China this year with the central and southern parts of Hainan and Sansha city expected to be hit by downpours in the next 24 hours.

Officials in neighbouring Laos and Cambodia are also taking precautions in an attempt to soften the impact of the ferocious storm.

Humanitarian experts say they expect the number of casualties to be ‘massive’. A Red Cross spokesman said: ‘We now fear that thousands will have lost their lives.’

The UK has sent a team of three experts to the country today to assess the extent of the damage, after which the Government will decide upon its response, a spokesman for the Department for International Development (Dfid) said.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening has also pledged £6 million worth of emergency aid.

She said: ‘My thoughts are with the people of the Philippines, in particular those who have lost loved ones. UK support is now under way.

‘Many thousands of people in remote, hard-to-reach communities have lost their homes and everything they own. They are living in the open and completely exposed to the elements.

‘The absolute priority must be to reach them with shelter and protection as soon as possible.

‘UK support will provide urgently needed access to clean water, shelter, household items and blankets,

‘We are also sending additional humanitarian experts from the UK to work with the DfID team and international agencies, including ensuring partners are prioritising the protection of vulnerable girls and women.’

The category-5 super typhoon Haiyan – Chinese for ‘sea bird’ – smashed into the eastern islands of the Philippines with winds nearly 150mph stronger than the St Jude storm which struck the UK in late October.

Roofs were ripped from houses, ferocious 20ft waves washed away coastal villages, power lines came down and trees were uprooted.

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Capt. John Andrews, deputy director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, said he had received ‘reliable information’ by radio that more than 100 bodies were lying in the streets of Tacloban on hardest-hit Leyte Island.

Regional military commander Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda said that the casualty figure ‘probably will increase’ after viewing aerial photographs of the widespread devastation caused by the typhoon.

Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras, a senior aide to President Benigno Aquino III, said that the number of casualties could not be immediately determined, but that the figure was ‘probably in that range’ given by Andrews. Government troops were helping recover bodies, he said.

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said it was too early to know how many people had died in the storm.

In the aftermath, Filipinos have taken to social media in an attempt to find missing loved ones by posting photos on Twitter.

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In Tacloban, a city of more than 200,000 believed to be one of the worst hit cities, corrugated iron sheets were ripped from roofs before crashing into buildings, according to video footage taken by a resident.

Flash floods also turned Tacloban’s streets into rivers, while a pictures from an ABS-CBN television reporter showed six bamboo houses washed away along a beach more than 200 kilometres to the south.

Civil aviation authorities in Tacloban, about 360 miles southeast of Manila, reported the seaside airport terminal was ‘ruined’ by storm surges.

U.S. Marine Col. Mike Wylie, who surveyed the damage in Tacloban prior to possible American assistance, said that the damage to the runway was significant. However, military planes were still able to land with relief aid.

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Vice mayor Jim Pe of Coron town on Busuanga, the last island battered by the typhoon before it blew away to the South China Sea, said most of the houses and buildings there had been destroyed or damaged.

Five people drowned in the storm surge and three others are missing. He said: ‘It was like a 747 flying just above my roof.’ adding that his family and some of his neighbours whose houses were destroyed took shelter in his basement.

ABS-CBN also showed fierce winds whipping buildings and vehicles as storm surges swamped Tacloban with debris-laden floodwaters.

In the aftermath, people were seen weeping while retrieving bodies of loved ones inside buildings and on a street that was littered with fallen trees, roofing material and other building parts torn off in the typhoon’s fury.

All that was left of one large building whose walls were smashed in were the skeletal remains of its rafters.

ABS-CBN television anchor Ted Failon, who was able to report only briefly Friday from Tacloban, said the storm surge was ‘like the tsunami in Japan’.

‘The sea engulfed Tacloban,’ he said, explaining that a major part of the city is surrounded on three sides by the waters between Leyte and Samar islands.

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Before he left Tacloban today, Failon said he saw people like a ‘pack of rats’ looting a department store taking whatever they could lay their hands on including refrigerators and TV sets. TV footage showed a group of men smiling as they walked away with a large ice cream freezer and other goods.

Relief workers today said they are having difficulties delivering food and other supplies, with roads blocked by landslides and fallen trees.

The Philippines is made up of more than 7,000 islands, so delivering aid can take up to two or tree days.

Red Cross chief Gwendolyn Pang said they struggled to deliver aid in the adverse conditions.

She said: ‘We’ve had reports of uprooted trees, very strong winds and houses made of light materials being damaged

‘We have put rescue teams and equipment at different places, but at the moment we can’t really do much because of the heavy rain and strong winds. There is no power’.

Mrs Pang added the death toll, which is said to have exceeded 1,000, was just an ‘estimate’.

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said the enormous rescue operation was still ongoing.

He added: ‘We expect a very high number of fatalities as well as injured. All systems, all vestiges of modern living – communications, power, water – all are down. Media is down, so there is no way to communicate with the people in a mass sort of way.’

Ben Webster, disaster response manager for the Red Cross, added: ‘Preparedness is strengthening over the years as agencies become more proficient at preparing for disasters, technology is improving so we can forecast a bit more reliably, so it is getting better in terms of preparation.

‘But there are still hundreds of thousands of families likely to have been impacted, and even if the loss of life isn’t as high as it usually is, these are still people who need homes and livelihoods which will have been impacted by this huge storm.

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‘The British Red Cross launched an appeal yesterday which the public can support. We have already released £100,000 yesterday which will support relief items, 10,000 tarpaulins were sent from Kuala Lumpur, and 2,000 hygiene parcels as well.

‘The whole international Red Cross movement will be mobilising to support the Philippines Red Cross and the International Federation in country to be able to respond to the situation.’

Marie Madamba-Nunez of Oxfam, which has already dispatched aid to the Philippines, said: ‘Making sure people have clean water, safe sanitation and a roof over peoples heads will be an immediate priority.

‘These disasters compound the burden of Philippines’ poorest people. Small scale farmers and those relying on fishing to make a living will be hardest hit. Their fields and their boats and tackle will be badly damaged and they will need help not only today but in months to come.

‘Economic solutions to root out poverty and inequality must be paired with minimising the risk of poor communities to the vagaries of weather and climate change.’

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Save the Children said up to 7,000 schools could have been damaged by Haiyan, as the aid agency battles to reach the hardest hit areas.

The charity’s country director Anna Lindenfors said: ‘We are very concerned for the poorest and most vulnerable children in some of the hardest hit places like Tacloban where there is likely to be catastrophic damage, especially to the homes of the poorest people who live in buildings made from flimsy materials.’

‘While the immediate focus must be on saving lives, we are also extremely worried that thousands of schools will have been knocked out of action or badly affected by the typhoon.

‘In the worst hit areas this will have a terrible impact on children’s education and it will be important that we help them back to school as quickly as possible.’

Speaking in the aftermath of the storm Paul Knightley, forecast manager at MeteoGroup, described Haiyan as ‘one of the strongest typhoons ever seen before on the planet in the modern age’.

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‘It is an incredibly powerful storm, which has now moved through the Philippines. No doubt we will see all sorts of damage has been caused.

‘As far as tropical storms go, this is about the top of the ladder. To get winds approaching 200mph as an average wind speed within the storm – you’re talking the top few percent of all storms that have ever occurred.

‘It may be one of the – if not the – strongest land-falling storm we’ve seen for many years, possibly in recorded history.’

The storm brought further misery to thousands of residents of Bohol who had been camped in tents and other makeshift shelters after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck the island last month.

At least 5,000 survivors were still living in tents on the island, and they were moved to schools that had been turned into evacuation centres.

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Speaking yesterday, Roger Mercado, governor of Southern Leyte, an island off the coast off the popular tourist region of Cebu, told how dense clouds and heavy rains turned day into night.

‘When you’re faced with such a scenario, you can only pray and pray and pray,’ he said, as weather forecasters warned of ‘catastrophic’ damage.

The governor added: ‘My worst fear is that there will be many massive loss of lives and property.’

In preparation for the typhoon, officials in Cebu province shut down electric services to the northern part of the province to avoid electrocutions in case power pylons are toppled, said assistant regional civil defence chief Flor Gaviola.

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President Benigno Aquino assured the public of war-like preparations, with three C-130 air force cargo planes and 32 military helicopters and planes on standby, along with 20 navy ships.

Authorities halted ferry services and fishing operations, while nearly 200 local flights had been suspended. Commuter bus services were also stopped as the storm dumped torrential rain and ripped iron roofs off buildings and houses.

Schools, offices and shops in the central Philippines were closed, with hospitals, soldiers and emergency workers on standby for rescue operations.

‘We can hear the winds howling but the rains are not too strong. We have encountered several distress calls regarding fallen trees and power lines cut. We don’t have power now,’ Samar Vice Governor Stephen James Tan said in a radio interview yesterday.

An average of 20 major storms or typhoons, many of them deadly, hit the Philippines each year.

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The developing country is particularly vulnerable because it is often the first major landmass for the storms after they build over the Pacific Ocean.

The Philippine government and some scientists have said climate change may be increasing the ferocity and frequency of storms.

Others say Pacific waters were an important reason for the strength of Haiyan, but added it was premature to blame climate change based on the scanty historical data available.

The poverty-stricken country has already endured a year of earthquakes and floods, with no fewer than 24 disastrous weather events.

The Philippines suffered the world’s strongest storm of 2012, when Typhoon Bopha left about 2,000 people dead or missing on the southern island of Mindanao.

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The Philippines has known disaster at the hands of mother nature as recently as 2011 when typhoon Washi killed 1,200 people, displaced 300,000 and destroyed more than 10,000 homes.

In September, category-five typhoon Usagi, with winds gusting of up to 149 mph, battered the northern island of Batanes before causing damage in southern China.

Bopha last year flattened three coastal towns on the southern island of Mindanao, killing 1,100 people and wreaking damage estimated at $1.04 billion.

Cambodian authorities said they were closely watching the development of the world’s biggest storm to materialise.

Storm trackers have predicted the storm could reach China on Tuesday, but the wind speeds will have dropped to between 25 and 35mph.

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