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Phuket Gazette World News: Ukraine accuses ex-president over sniper deaths

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Phuket Gazette World News: Ukraine accuses ex-president over sniper deaths | The Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Ukraine accuses ex-president over sniper deaths
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Ukraine’s prime minister on Thursday blamed ousted President Viktor Yanukovich for the deaths of dozens of anti-government protesters shot by police snipers and urged Russia to hand him over to face charges.

Arseny Yatseniuk made his comments to Reuters after Ukraine’s security service (SBU) blamed the killing of more than 100 protesters in mid-February on the Berkut riot police but said Yanukovich had been involved in planning the operation.

The SBU also said representatives of Russia’s FSB security force had been at the SBU headquarters in Kiev – under the previous government – during three months of protests, and that Russia had flown explosives into Ukraine as they worsened.

The hints of Russian involvement could further strain ties with Ukraine’s former Soviet master, which annexed the Crimea region after Yanukovich’s removal from power in what has become the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War.

Yanukovich has taken refuge in Russia and denied ordering the shootings. Asked in an interview whether he held the deposed president responsible for the protesters’ deaths, Yatseniuk said it was a matter for the prosecutor general to decide.

“But as a politician I can state that the former president is personally responsible and we would like to bring … (him) to justice,” he said. “It is unacceptable when the Russian Federation covers for a man who is under investigation for the charges of mass murder and crimes against humanity.”

The new government has faced pressure to identify and punish the killers in an event which was a turning point in the Moscow-backed Yanukovich’s ultimately doomed struggle to retain power.

“The former government of the country gave criminal orders and a huge number of people suffered in the ‘mincer’,” Interior Minister Arsen Avakov told a news conference that announced the initial findings of an investigation into the shooting.

Rooftop snipers picked off protesters and medical workers on February 20. Many died on the spot from shots to the neck and scores of bodies were left strewn on the ground in central Kiev.

One day after the killings, which followed three months of mainly peaceful protests over Yanukovich’s decision to spurn closer trade and political ties with the European Union, the president fled Kiev. He was deposed by parliament on February 22.

The prosecutor general said 12 members of the Berkut had been detained on suspicion of shooting peaceful participants in the protests.

Acting Attorney General Oleh Makhnitsky said the detainees were members of a special force in the Berkut called the ‘Black Unit’ and the head of the SBU said members of a special unit within SBU had also been involved.

In late February the Interior Ministry disbanded the Berkut, whose name means golden eagle.

Russian explosives

The presence of members of Russia’s FSB, a successor of the KGB, at the SBU’s headquarters in Kiev implied there had been active Russian involvement in events in Ukraine, SBU chief Valentyn Nalyvaichenko said.

“We have reasonable grounds to believe that these groups … participated in the planning and implementation of the so-called anti-terrorist operation,” he said.

The FSB denied any involvement. Russia’s RIA news agency quoted it as saying: “Let these statements be on the conscience of the Ukrainian Security Services.”

Nalyvaichenko also said that planes loaded with 5,100 kilograms of Russian-made explosives and other materials had landed at an aerodrome near Kiev from the Russian city of Chkalovsk in January.

“They brought the means of organising the shooting and destruction of our protesters on Maidan,” he said, referring to the central Kiev square which became the heart of the protests.

Russia has denied any involvement in Kiev’s unrest, suggesting that the protests were partly funded by the West.

Konstantin Dolgov, a Russian Foreign Ministry official responsible for human rights issues, said on Twitter it would be wrong to draw “hasty and politicised conclusions based on material and hypotheses that have ‘suddenly’ surfaced'”.

The findings of Ukrainian security chiefs’ investigation and the Berkut arrests go some way towards meeting demands for justice over the killings. But many Ukrainians, disillusioned with what they see as a corrupt and mismanaged political system, want more dramatic change.

“The authorities want to appease us with these arrests. They’ve not done enough and we see only cosmetic changes and we want radical reforms,” said Ivan Kochmar, a 37-year-old resident of Kiev.

Anatoly Dekin, from Crimea, welcomed the moves, saying it would be “nonsense” if the killers were not convicted as they were “monsters who killed ordinary people”.

Another Kiev resident, who gave his name only as Sergei, said the blame must be placed elsewhere: “The main people who gave the orders are from the Kremlin.”

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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World

Johnson tells MPs that there is ‘no better outcome’ than his Brexit plan

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Johnson tells MPs that there is ‘no better outcome’ than his Brexit plan | The Thaiger

British PM Boris Johnson is warning British MPs there was “no better outcome” to the tortuous Brexit process than his divorce deal, as he scrambles to get MPs behind the agreement ahead of today’s knife-edge vote in parliament (Saturday UK time).

Johnson is urging lawmakers to back the “fantastic” terms he struck with EU leaders and let Britain leave the bloc on October 31.

“There’s no better outcome than the one I’m advocating tomorrow.”

“I want colleagues on all sides of the House to think about a world tomorrow night in which we’ve got this thing done,” he added in a separate interview with ITV.

“I think the nation will heave a great sigh of relief.”

Johnson pulled off a major coup in agreeing a new divorce deal at a Brussels summit on Thursday, only a fortnight before Britain is scheduled to leave the EU. But the deal’s fortunes, and Britain’s immediate fate, rest in the hands of a few undecided MPs, who will vote in the first Saturday session of the Commons since the 1982 Falklands War.

Political pundits suggest the vote could be exceptionally tight. Johnson has no majority among MPs, every opposition party has come out against the deal and even his parliamentary ally, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), says it cannot support the terms.

Johnson requires the support of 319 other MPs to guarantee victory – and claims he is confident of getting the numbers, as he spent the day meeting and calling MPs.

He must convince diehard eurosceptics in his own Conservative ranks, former colleagues he expelled from the party for seeking to block a “no deal” departure, and main opposition Labour MPs from Brexit-backing constituencies to have any chance.

Labour is ordering its MPs to vote against the deal but threatening no punishment if they vote in favour. Several MPs spent yesterday wrestling with their consciences as the more than three years of turmoil since the June 2016 EU membership referendum came to a head.

Johnson is expected to deliver a speech to parliament from 0830 GMT on Saturday, kicking off a day of debate that could last well into the evening.

The turning of the screws

If the Commons rejects the deal, Johnson will be forced by law to ask the EU to delay Brexit, for what would be the third time. He has said he would rather be “dead in a ditch”.

French President Emmanuel Macron piled the pressure on MPs, saying he did not want a new delay now a deal was struck.

“The October 31 date should be respected. I don’t think that new deadlines should be given,” he said at the EU summit in Brussels.

“We need to end these negotiations and get on negotiating the future relationship.”

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel added: “There is no choice between Brexit or no Brexit: it’s a choice between deal or no deal.”

Johnson took office in July vowing to keep to the October 31 Brexit deadline, deal or no deal.

He pledged to renegotiate the most contentious elements of a divorce text agreed by his predecessor Theresa May with Brussels last year, which MPs rejected three times.

The compromise deal that was finally struck on Thursday has a new arrangement for keeping open the border between British Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

The DUP has said it cannot support the plans, as efforts to avoid checks on the Irish land border would lead to new trade barriers between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.

Meanwhile…

Former Conservative prime minister John Major (1990-1997) and his Labour successor Tony Blair (1997-2007) pleaded with MPs to back a second referendum, ahead of a major rally by the “People’s Vote” campaign outside parliament on Saturday (UK time).

“Whatever is the outcome, no deal or bad deal, it should not pass without the final say resting with the people,” said Blair.

Major said Brexit was a “thoroughly bad idea” that risked breaking up the UK.

The Pound steadied around $1.29 yesterday as dealers took a breather at the end of a dizzying week.

ETX Capital analyst Michael Baker said the market was “really gambling” on the vote and had “not priced in fully all scenarios – so expect big moves”.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse | PHOTO: Associated Press

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Economy

Local investor sentiment dampened by Brexit woes and slump in Chinese economy

The Thaiger

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Local investor sentiment dampened by Brexit woes and slump in Chinese economy | The Thaiger

The British pound fell today as investors fret over PM Boris Johnson’s chances of pushing his Brexit deal through the British parliament, while Asian markets were mostly down after data showed China’s economy expanded at its slowest pace in nearly three decades.

The pound rallied almost to US$1.30 yesterday following news that negotiators had hammered out an agreement that would avoid Britain leaving the EU without a divorce deal – a move many warn would be economically catastrophic. But the brief celebrations were soon tempered by the realisation that the British PM faces an uphill task in getting the deal past lawmakers, with opposition MPs and even some in his own Conservative party saying they won’t pass it.

Most importantly, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up Johnson’s government, said it was “unable to support these proposals”.

Forex traders sold sterling, pushing it back down below $1.29, and it extended losses in Asia. Focus is now on a crucial vote in London on the deal scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday).

“Much will depend on the PM’s ability to get some if not all DUP and (Scottish National Party) MPs onside, in addition to also getting the backing from the 21 ex-Conservative MPs he expelled from the party last month,” said National Australia Bank’s Rodrigo Catril.

“Rejection of the deal might well see more political brinkmanship around a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, but the most likely scenario would be yet another extension of the 31 October Brexit date.”

Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA, said whichever way the vote goes, “traders should prepare themselves for some severe volatility on Monday morning, with multiple big-figure moves a strong possibility”.

China growth slows again

Asian equity markets, meanwhile, were mostly lower after China said its economy expanded 6% in the third quarter, the slowest pace in 27 years, as leaders struggle to address weak domestic demand and the long-running US trade war.

The reading was a drop from the previous three months but in line with an AFP forecast and the government’s 6-6.5% target for the year.

While the National Bureau of Statistics said the economy “maintained overall stability”, it added that it “is under mounting downward pressure” from weakness at home and abroad.

Shanghai ended down 1.3% with Stephen Innes at AxiTrader saying traders were concerned the figures were not weak enough to prompt the Chinese central bank to embark on a big stimulus drive.

“With the People’s Bank of China, who arguably have plenty of policy ammunition to right the ship, probably unwilling to turn on the monetary taps, investors are taking risk off the table,” he said in a note.

Hong Kong was off 0.5% amid concern over the possibility of more violent protests over the weekend, while Sydney closed down 0.5 percent and Singapore eased 0.4%.

Seoul shed 0.8% and Wellington lost 0.7%, with Taipei and Manila also lower. But Tokyo closed 0.2 higher at a 10-month high, while Mumbai and Jakarta also edged up.

Hopes for the China-US trade talks were given a lift after Beijing’s commerce ministry said negotiators have “accelerated efforts” to hammer out details of last Friday’s mini-deal and were holding talks on moving on to the next phase of a wider agreement.

Donald Trump said Wednesday he hopes to sign the deal with President Xi Jinping at the APEC summit in Chile next month.

And the Turkish lira jumped more than 1% after Ankara said it would pause military operations in northern Syria for five days and US Vice President Mike Pence said Washington would not impose any fresh sanctions.

Key markets today…

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2857 from $1.2891 at 2050 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 86.48 pence from 86.31 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1122 from $1.1127

Dollar/yen: UP at 108.63 yen from 108.62 yen

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.4% at 7,152.55

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.2% at 22,492.68 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.5% at 26,719.58 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 1.3% at 2,938.14 (close)

West Texas Intermediate: UP four cents at $53.97 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 22 cents at $59.69 per barrel

New York – Dow: UP 0.1% at 27,025.88 (close)

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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Philippines

Powerful 6.4 earthquake kills five in the Philippines

May Taylor

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Powerful 6.4 earthquake kills five in the Philippines | The Thaiger

PHOTO: AFP

A strong 6.4 magnitude earthquake has struck the southern Philippines, killing five, including one child, destroying property and disrupting power supply. The death toll is expected to rise.

The powerful quake was felt across the Mindanao region, even causing a 3-storey shopping mall to burst into flames. Residents were evacuated and a child was killed when a house collapsed in the town of Datu Paglas.

AFP reports that the quake was 14 kilometres deep and followed by two aftershocks. The Philippines is part of the “Ring of Fire”, a zone of constant seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific.

Several injuries have been reported as a result of falling debris. The shopping mall that caught fire was evacuated when the quake struck, but it’s not yet known if there were still people inside as the fire took hold.

The mall was still on fire three hours later as nearly 100 firemen battled to put it out.

Residents on the coast in Davao fled to higher ground fearing a tsunami, even though a government seismologist reassured people there was no tsunami risk as the quake had occurred inland.

It’s understood that prisoners in the municipal jail in the town of Bansalan were also let out, but placed in handcuffs and held outside for the duration of the evacuation.

SOURCE: AFP

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