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Phuket Gazette World News: Pro-Moscow protesters declare republic, Kiev fears invasion

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Phuket Gazette World News: Pro-Moscow protesters declare republic, Kiev fears invasion | Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Pro-Moscow protesters declare republic, Kiev fears invasion
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Pro-Moscow protesters in eastern Ukraine seized arms in one city and declared a separatist republic in another, in moves Kiev described on Monday as part of a Russian-orchestrated plan to justify an invasion to dismember the country.

Kiev said the overnight seizure of public buildings in three cities in eastern Ukraine’s mainly Russian-speaking industrial heartland were a replay of events in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula Moscow seized and annexed last month.

“An anti-Ukrainian plan is being put into operation … under which foreign troops will cross the border and seize the territory of the country,” Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said in public remarks to his cabinet. “We will not allow this.”

Pro-Russian protesters seized official buildings in the eastern cities of Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk on Sunday night, demanding that referendums be held on whether to join Russia like the one that preceded Moscow’s takeover of Crimea.

Acting President Oleksander Turchinov, in a televised address to the nation, said Moscow was attempting to repeat “the Crimea scenario”. He added that “anti-terrorist measures” would be deployed against those who had taken up arms.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in a phone call that Washington was watching events in eastern Ukraine with great concern and any further moves by Moscow to destabilize Ukraine would “incur further costs for Russia.”

Kerry “called on Russia to publicly disavow the activities of separatists, saboteurs and provocateurs” in Ukraine, the State Department said. The two discussed convening direct talks in the next 10 days between Ukraine, Russia, the United States and the European Union to defuse tensions.

White House warning

The White House warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against moving “overtly or covertly” into eastern Ukraine and said there was strong evidence that pro-Russian demonstrators in the region were being paid.

Lavrov told Kerry that constitutional reform was required to resolve the crisis. Russia says this would give Ukraine’s regions more powers, as it believes the rights of ethnic Russians in Ukraine are being violated.

In an article on the website of Britain’s Guardian newspaper, Lavrov denied Russia was destabilising Ukraine and accused the West of the “groundless whipping-up of tension”.

Separately, he warned authorities in Kiev against any use of force against pro-Russian demonstrators.

Police said they cleared the protesters from the building in Kharkiv, but in Luhansk the demonstrators had seized weapons.

In Donetsk, home base of deposed Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovich, about 120 pro-Russia activists calling themselves the “Republican People’s Soviet of Donetsk” seized the chamber of the regional assembly.

An unidentified bearded man read out “the act of the proclamation of an independent state, Donetsk People’s Republic” in front of a white, blue and red Russian flag.

“In the event of aggressive action from the illegitimate Kiev authorities, we will appeal to the Russian Federation to bring in a peacekeeping contingent,” ran the proclamation.

The activists later read out the text by loud hailer to a cheering crowd of about 1,000 outside the building.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on Monday the main regional administration building in Kharkiv had been cleared of “separatists”. But police in Luhansk said protesters occupying the state security building there had seized weapons. Highway police closed off roads into the city.

“Unidentified people who are in the building have broken into the building’s arsenal and have seized weapons,” police said in a statement. Nine people had been hurt in the disturbances in Luhansk.

Russian speakers

Putin announced on March 1, a week after Yanukovich was overthrown, that Moscow had the right to take military action in Ukraine to protect Russian speakers, creating the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.

The United States and EU imposed mild financial sanctions on some Russian officials over the seizure of Crimea and have threatened much tougher measures if Russian troops, now massed on the frontier, enter other parts of Ukraine.

Western European governments have hesitated to alienate Russia further, fearing for supplies of Russian natural gas, much of which reaches EU buyers via pipelines across Ukraine. Ukraine’s own dependence on Russian gas gives Moscow strong leverage, especially over Ukraine’s eastern industrial areas.

Russia’s gas monopoly Gazprom said it had received no payments from Ukraine for money owed for gas. It has given Kiev until midnight (0900 p.m. BST) to reduce a $2.2 billion (1.3 billion pounds) gas debt, although it has not said what it will do if Kiev misses the deadline. In previous years, gas disputes between Moscow and Kiev have hurt supplies to Europe.

In Vienna, Russia did not attend a meeting on Ukraine of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The U.S. envoy to the OSCE, Daniel Baer, said Moscow needed to explain why tens of thousands of its troops were massed on the border.

NATO has halted cooperation with Russia. The Western military alliance announced on Monday it would now restrict access to its headquarters by Russian diplomats apart from Moscow’s ambassador, his deputy and two support staff.

Mainly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, densely populated and producing much of the country’s industrial output, has seen a sharp rise in tension since Yanukovich fled the country, and Kiev has long said it believes Moscow is behind the unrest.

Pro-Russian protesters briefly held public buildings in the east early last month and three people were killed in clashes in mid-March. But trouble had subsided until Sunday.

Unlike in Crimea, where ethnic Russians form a majority, most people in the east and south are ethnically Ukrainian, although they speak Russian as a first language. Eastern oligarchs who once backed Yanukovich have thrown their weight behind the government in Kiev, and the unrest there is a test of their ability to assert control.

Yanukovich call

Yanukovich, in exile in Russia, has called for referendums across Ukrainian regions on their status within the country.

Yatseniuk said that though much of the unrest had died down in eastern Ukraine in the past month there remained about 1,500 “radicals” in each region who spoke with “clear Russian accents” and whose activity was being coordinated abroad. But he said Ukrainian authorities had drawn up a plan to handle the crisis.

Avakov accused Putin on Sunday of orchestrating the “separatist disorder” and promised that disturbances would be brought under control without violence.

Russia has been pushing internationally a plan proposing the “federalisation” of Ukraine in which regions of the country of 46 million would have broad powers of autonomy.

Ukraine, drawing up its own plan for “de-centralisation” in which municipalities would retain a portion of state taxes, says the Russian proposal is aimed at carving it up.

Ukraine’s defence ministry said a Russian marine had shot and killed a Ukrainian naval officer in Crimea on Sunday night.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Tourism

World’s most travel-friendly passport list – 2021

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World’s most travel-friendly passport list – 2021 | Thaiger
FILE PHOTO: Japan tops the list of most travel-friendly passports.

The Henley Passport Index, which rates which passports are the most travel-friendly, has just released the list for 2021, with Japan once again at the top of the list.

But the Index noted that this international travel freedom comparison is mostly theoretical at the moment since Covid-19 continues to limit most travel worldwide. With a Japanese passport, travellers can enter 193 countries without a visa or with a visa-on-arrival. On the other end of the list, an Afghanistan passport can only get into 26 countries. The gap of 167 countries is the widest gap since the Henley Passport Index began tracking this data 15 years ago in 2006.

Singapore kept its second-place this year standing with just one less destination than Japan, followed by Germany and South Korea tied for 3rd place with 191 destinations. The rest of the top 10 are mainly European countries, with the exception of New Zealand and the US as part of the 5-way tie for 7th place with 187 destinations, and Australia and Canada tied for 9th place with 185 destinations.

The US and UK passports took a tumble, once tied for the most travel-friendly passport back in 2014, now losing ground slipping to 7th place. On the other hand, United Arab Emirates strengthened diplomatic ties worldwide and jumped 50 spots this year from 65th all the way to 15th. Over the decade, the climb is even more dramatic, with the Emirates exploding from 67 destinations 10 years ago up 107 destinations to 174 this year. China did well also, climbing 22 places since 2011, up to number 68 on the list.

Thailand’s passport is tied with Saudi Arabia at 66th with 79 destinations available without an advance visa.

The full list of most travel-friendly passports…
1. Japan (193 destinations)
2. Singapore (192)
3. Germany, South Korea (191)
4. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain (190)
5. Austria, Denmark (189)
6. France, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden (188)
7. Belgium, New Zealand, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States (187)
8. Czech Republic, Greece, Malta, Norway (186)
9. Australia, Canada (185)
10. Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia (183)

Henley and Partners predict that the spread in passport access will mirror Covid-19 affected travel. Rich and mobile regions like the US, UK, EU and UAE are getting access to vaccination, hastening their ability to travel, while poorer and developing economies are experiencing a much slower vaccine roll-out.

Experts from Syracuse University, the University of Pittsburgh, and the Migration Policy Centre predict this trend will continue with potentially devastating long-term effects.

Countries that can afford and facilitate vaccination for their citizens quickly will be able to welcome travellers in for tourism and business and be able to travel more themselves. Conversely, countries that can’t afford the storage and distribution of vaccines will be less able to travel or welcome tourism income, widening a global wealth gap.

Remote working and the digital nomad lifestyle has been booming in recent years and with Covid-19 forcing businesses to adapt to telecommuting, the post-pandemic world will see more remote working, and countries falling behind with vaccinations will suffer the long-term loss in tourism dollars too.

SOURCE: CNN

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World

The Queen sits as a lonely figure as she bids farewell to her husband Prince Philip

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The Queen sits as a lonely figure as she bids farewell to her husband Prince Philip | Thaiger
PHOTO: VOA news

Prince Philip was laid to rest Saturday afternoon, UK time, in a simple but soulful funeral ceremony honouring his lifetime of service to the UK, the Commonwealth and his wife of 73 years, Queen Elizabeth II.

Clad in black, her head bowed in prayer, the elderly monarch set an example for the UK community during the Covid pandemic, socially distancing herself from the rest of her family.

Prince Philip died just 2 months short of his 100th birthday – some reflected that he was just 2 months away from receiving a telegram from his wife.

The service at Windsor Castle was light on pageantry but steeped in military and royal traditions. The whole pre-funeral procession and service was held away from the public eye, entirely within the grounds of Windsor Castle, but a full live stream of the proceedings was shown on UK TV and internet services.

Instead of the expected nearly 1,000 mourners, there was a mere 30 allowed inside the grounds of the castle to take part in the procession and service, although there was a larger entourage of socially-distanced musicians, camera-people, guards and organisers on site.

Attending were Prince Charles his wife Camilla, Prince Andrew, Prince William and his wife Kate, and Prince Harry, who had returned from the US without his pregnant wife Meghan. The Queen and Prince Philip’s other children, and grandchildren, were also in attendance.

The most poignant image from the entire ceremony was the lone figure of Queen Elizabeth, entirely in black with a black face mask and hat, a very human and frail figure who spent the entire service buried in deep contemplation, rarely raising her head to watch the proceedings. Whilst the service was all about remembering the service and duty of her consort, Prince Philip, there were few who wouldn’t have been thinking of the 94 year old woman sitting all alone, grieving the loss of her husband.

Britain officially observed 1 minute of silence in honour of Prince Philip just before the funeral started.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s coffin arrived at the chapel in a modified Land Rover conceived by the prince. Known for his sense of humour and off-the-cuff one-liners (that often got him into hot water), the arrival of his own coffin in an army-green pick-up truck was his final poke at the outrageous pageantry he often shied away from.

His coffin was draped in his personal standard with his Royal Navy cap, sword and a wreath of flowers sitting atop.

Prince Philip was placed in the vault along with the remains of 24 other royals, including 3 kings of England. But following the Queen’s death, the pair are expected to be buried in the Royal Burial Ground on the Frogmore Estate close to Windsor Castle.

Along with Philip’s children and grandchildren, the 30 funeral guests included other senior royals and several of his German relatives. Philip was born a prince of Greece and Denmark and, like the queen, is related to mash-up of European royal families.

The two sons of Price Charles and Princess Diana, William and Harry, were seen walking together after the service and chatting as mourners were leaving the chapel.

The Queen sits as a lonely figure as she bids farewell to her husband Prince Philip | News by Thaiger

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Grim milestone: 3 million Covid-19 deaths worldwide

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Grim milestone: 3 million Covid-19 deaths worldwide | Thaiger
PHOTO: 3 million Covid-19 deaths recorded around the world.

Today marks a grim milestone as the Covid-19 pandemic officially crosses 3 million deaths around the world, with outbreaks still surging in various parts of the world. Over a year into the pandemic, and we are currently seeing over 700,000 new infections and 12,000 deaths per day, with Brazil, India, and France facing growing crises.

The 3 million figure reflects official numbers, though many suspect that real totals could be much higher, pointing at government conspiracies and early deaths that were not attributed to Covid-19 when little was known about the novel coronavirus in the early days.

Still, the official number is overwhelming enough – equal to the population of Kyiv, Ukraine, or the state of Arkansas in the US, and larger than world cities like Lisbon, Caracas, Dubai, Manchester or Chicago. Imagine nearly one-third of the people in Bangkok wiped out, or the entire nation of Armenia or Jamaica.

Following a steep decline in both new infections and deaths at the start of this year, the graph is again in an upward trajectory, both in terms of new cases and deaths from Covid.

Grim milestone: 3 million Covid-19 deaths worldwide | News by ThaigerThe World Health Organisation laments the dire condition of the world dealing with the pandemic after 16 months and so many opportunities to prevent the spread with basic safety precautions. Brazil has spiralled out of control, racking up 3,000 deaths a day, nearly 25% of all the Covid-19 deaths in the world in the past few weeks. New variants have been spreading like wildfire throughout Brazil as more dangerous strains have wriggled their way into countries around the world.

In India, the distribution of vaccines has been thwarted by swelling Covid-19 outbreaks and deaths. In New Dehli, 13,000 infections were reported in a day amongst the 29 million residents, but the city only has 178 ventilators available as of Wednesday.

Only 1.1% of the Indian populations has been vaccinated, and officials faced criticism of their vaccine exports while so many need jabs domestically. In Thailand, the percentage of people vaccinated is even lower.

700 million vaccines have been distributed worldwide, but they have been shipped disproportionately to the wealthier populations throughout the world. In rich countries, 1 in 4 people have been vaccinated, while in poor countries that number is less than 1 in 500. In fact, 87% of the vaccines distributed worldwide have been to wealthy nations, and the delays in India due to increasing Covid-19 deaths will not help close that gap for many months to come.

SOURCE: Sky

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