RT Breaking News: Special status to E. Ukraine regions, amnesty to combatants – parliament

Ukraine Parliament approves Special Status for East Ukraine Regions – for 3 years?
 

The Ukrainian parliament has approved laws on special status for the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions, as well as amnesty for pro-independence freedom fighters.

The special status law has received 277 ‘yes’ votes from a total of 450 MPs, while the amnesty law was approved by 287 parliamentary members. The session of the Verkhovna Rada is underway during which MPs are to ratify an agreement with the EU.

The law on the special status of Lugansk and Donetsk Regions guarantees the right to use and study Russian or any other language in Ukraine.

It also states that local elections are to take place in the regions on December 7.

The head of the Lugansk People’s Republic, Igor Plotnitsky, earlier welcomed the law on special status for Ukraine’s eastern regions proposed by to Ukraine President Poroshenko by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The law on the special status of Donbass generally reflects the priorities we voiced at the September 1 negotiations. That’s why, even though a lot remains unclear, we may say that a peaceful solution has received its first chance of being implemented,” Plotnitsky told RIA Novosti.

Minsk protocol: Ukraine to be decentralized, special status for Lugansk, Donetsk

The PM of the Donetsk People’s Republic Aleksandr Zakharchenko has reacted to the news of the law being passed by saying it should first be signed by President Poroshenko, RIA Novosti reports.

“First let Poroshenko sign it, let it be published and come into force. Then we’ll translate it into Russian, read it and give an assessment,” Zakharchenko said.

The law on ‘Prevention of prosecution and punishment of participants of events in the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions’ offers amnesty to those anti-government fighters who release all prisoners, hand in all weapons and vacate all occupied government buildings within a month following the law’s enactment.

The laws have been part of a peace roadmap negotiated by Poroshenko and representatives of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The roadmap also included an agreement to a ceasefire, which came into force September 5.

The truce has been barely holding with numerous reports on violations and both the troops and the anti-government fighters blaming each other for sporadic shootings.

Another part of the peace plan proposed by President Putin – a prisoner exchange – has been gradually implemented.

The OSCE has revealed the 12-point roadmap behind the September 5 truce signed in Minsk. It says that Ukraine must adopt a new law, allowing for a special status for Lugansk and Donetsk regions, and hold early elections there.

The document, titled ‘Protocol on the results of consultations of the Trilateral Contact Group’ and signed in Minsk on September 5, outlines what needs to be done for the ceasefire to stay in place.

“To decentralize power, including through the adoption by Ukraine of law ‘on provisional procedure for local government in parts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions (law on special status),’” states one of the provisions in the document.

Another point emphasizes that “early local elections” are to be held in light of the special status of both regions. The early elections must be held in accordance with the same proposed law, it says.

Kiev must then continue an “inclusive nationwide dialogue,” the document stresses.

The roadmap also implies an amnesty for anti-government forces in Donbass: “To adopt a law, prohibiting prosecution or punishment of people in relation to the events that took place in individual areas of Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine.”

Anti-government rebels rest outside a house in the eastern Ukrainian town of Ilovaysk, September 5, 2014. (Reuters / Maxim Shemetov)

Anti-government rebels rest outside a house in the eastern Ukrainian town of Ilovaysk, September 5, 2014. (Reuters / Maxim Shemetov)

At the same time, it notes that all “illegal military formations, military equipment, as well as militants and mercenaries” have to be withdrawn from Ukraine.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) published a copy of the protocol early on Sunday, with only a PDF document in Russian available so far.

During the meeting on September 5, Kiev officials and representatives of the two self-proclaimed republics in southeastern Ukraine have agreed to a ceasefire.

Some of the other provisions of the truce include monitoring of the ceasefire inside Ukraine and on the Russia-Ukraine border by international OSCE observers, the freeing of all prisoners of war, and the opening of humanitarian corridors.

A “safety zone” is to be created with the participation of the OSCE on the Russia-Ukraine border, the document says.

It also calls for measures to improve the dire humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine, and urges in a separate point that a program for Donbass’ economic development is to be adopted.

Since the conflict significantly deteriorated in mid-April, 2,593 people have died in fighting in the east of the country, according to the UN’s latest data. More than 6,033 others have been wounded in the turmoil.

The number of internally displaced Ukrainians has reached 260,000, with another 814,000 finding refuge in Russia.

 

A Ukrainian serviceman sit ontop of an armoured personnel carrier during a patrol on the border of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions near town of Debaltseve, on September 5, 2014. (AFP Photo / Anatoliy Stepanov)

A Ukrainian serviceman sit ontop of an armoured personnel carrier during a patrol on the border of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions near town of Debaltseve, on September 5, 2014. (AFP Photo / Anatoliy Stepanov)

Protesters dump Ukrainian deputy in rubbish bin (PHOTO, VIDEO)

Screenshot from youtube by Lenta Novostei

Screenshot from youtube by Lenta Novostei

 

Crowds outside the Ukrainian parliament seized a deputy, as he left the building for a break, and put him in a trash bin. The move puzzled politicians, as the deputy was behind the lustration law which the protesters had gathered to support.

A crowd gathered outside the parliament, Verkhovna Rada, in Kiev on Tuesday to rally while MPs were voting on a new bill banning the closest allies of Ukraine’s deposed President Yanukovich from politics.

A Parliament Deputy deposited in a trash bin by protesters

 

Vitaly Zhuravsky, deputy for the Economic Development group, stepped outside the parliament building for a break, and was immediately seized by a large crowd of men. Zhuravsky was forced into a trash can full of rubbish, while the crowd cheered “Glory to Ukraine!”

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Screenshot from youtube by Dmitriy Chigrin

Several men held Zhuravsky by his head, preventing him from getting out of the bin. They threw a car tire at him and poured some liquid over him, saying he was “to blame for bloodshed.”

The deputy was carried in the bin across the street, before police intervened.

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Zhuravsky later said he considered the attack to be a hit, ordered by political competitors, adding that he pardons the offenders.

I am still shocked by what has happened. I take this incident as a hit by my competitors, running for the vote in the Zhitomir region. I don’t think that’s the way Maidan people could have treated me, it can’t be true, I simply don’t believe it,” the deputy said at a Rada briefing.

The deputy said he was among the draftsmen of the new so-called lustration bill, which was adopted by the Ukrainian parliament on Tuesday. If signed into law by President Petro Poroshenko, MPs who worked under Viktor Yanukovich will be forced to quit parliament and will be permanently banned from occupying seats.

Several of the Maidan activists later publicly apologized to Zhuravsky. The deputy said he would not press charges.

NATO Plans for Ukraine is ‘a Joke’

Captured Ukrainian soldiers taken out of encirclement near Ilovaisk

Captured Ukrainian soldiers taken out of encirclement near Ilovaisk

MOSCOW, September 11 (RIA Novosti) -NATO’s announcement of a new rapid response force to deploy to its Eastern front is “a joke,” said scholar and Kosciuszko Chair of Polish history at the Institute for World Politics, Marek Jan Chodakiewicz.

“NATO talked at its summit about creating a rapid reaction force. [It is] another joke, and Putin knows that,” said Chodakiewicz during a speech at the Institute for World Politics on Wednesday.

Chodakiewicz noted, that creating and mobilizing a rapid response force requires political consent. “There is no strategy for the United States; there is not a NATO strategy,” for handling the Ukrainian crisis of dealing with the impasse with Russia, Chodakiewicz told RIA Novosti. He went on to call the current approach by the NATO allies “discombobulated.”

Chodakiewicz was skeptical of the effectiveness of the military support being offered to Kiev, whose military he described as “incompetent.” After taking part in military exercises with Ukrainian forces, Chodakiewicz gave his impression of the brass saying, “You are not ready to fight. You’d like American to pull your chestnuts out of the fire.”

At the end of its September summit in Wales, NATO announced it would be increasing its rapid response force, now mostly comprised of American special forces. Additionally, it was announced that the allies would provide Ukraine with $ 19 million and lethal and nonlethal military equipment. Earlier this week, NATO and Ukrainian naval exercises took place in the Black Sea, and more exercises are planned for the future.

President Artur Mas: Stripping Catalonia of Autonomous Status Will Not Stop Independence Vote

Depriving Catalonia of its autonomous rights will not stop the region's independence movement: Catalan president

Depriving Catalonia of its autonomous rights will not stop the region’s independence movement: Catalan president

 

MADRID, September 16 (RIA Novosti) – Depriving Catalonia of its autonomous rights will not stop the region’s independence movement, Catalan president Artur Mas said on Tuesday.

“[The Spanish government] should not think that this will stop the course of history,” Mas told Catalan lawmakers, adding that Madrid should learn from UK authorities, whose policies have made the upcoming Scottish referendum possible.

Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said earlier on Tuesday that Spain would use “all legal tools available to prevent a separation referendum” in Catalonia, including stripping the region of its autonomous status.

According to Mas, the Madrid government is showing double standards, as it appeals to the law, but chooses “not to comply with it whenever necessary.”

“Do not be surprised that there are people in the region who believe that the time has come to achieve [autonomy] in other ways,” Mas stated.

The Catalan leader noted that he would not go as far as claiming that all Catalans want independence, but said that the residents of the autonomous community wished to establish just how many of them want the region to secede from Spain.

“The movement for Catalan rights is not dead. It is now more alive than ever, but in a different form, as it is no longer asking the government for authority or resources, but rather for a nationwide survey,” Mas said.

Tensions in Catalonia about secession from Spain have increased in light of the upcoming Scottish independence referendum, which will be held on September 18.

A referendum on Catalan’s independence has been set for November 9. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the Constitutional Court of Spain have repeatedly stressed that they will not recognize the results of the vote, which they consider illegal.

Scotland’s democratic revolution

Whatever the referendum's outcome, energy created by the grassroots independence campaign has changed Scottish politics.

Whatever the referendum’s outcome, energy created by the grassroots independence campaign has changed Scottish politics.

‘Yes’ campaigners have been out in force pushing for independence [Andrew McFadyen/Al Jazeera]

Glasgow, Scotland – Something extraordinary is happening in Pollok.

The sprawling housing scheme on Glasgow’s south side is one of the most deprived communities in Europe. One-in-four residents are on out-of-work benefits, and more than one-third of children here grow up in poverty.

It is a place where just getting by is often a challenge, and many people have little time for politics. Just 39 percent voted in the last Scottish election.

But this time – with Thursday’s referendum on Scotland’s independence from the United Kingdom – it promises to be different. On Sunday, at least 44 people gathered at the back of a bus station for a mass canvass organised by the Radical Independence Campaign.

Seventeen-year-old Shannon Neill got involved a few days ago.

“I’ve been campaigning for the past week and the passion and the vigour I am hearing from people of all different ages, and nationalities as well, is quite astounding,” Neill told Al Jazeera.

I don’t think there has ever been a campaign like this where people have been able to use social media and the internet so effectively to make their voices heard.

– Zara Gladman, pro-independence supporter

Another activist described the level of engagement in the community as a democratic revolution. For the first time ever, people believe their vote matters and it can make a difference.

Radical campaign

The Radical Independence Campaign is part of the biggest grassroots movement that Scotland has ever seen.

Craig Paterson, a 27-year-old student with a mop of blonde hair and a bottle of Irn Bru sticking out his jacket pocket, describes it as a broad based left-wing movement that includes greens, trade unionists, and anti-war activists.

“On days like today, on mass canvasses, we have had anything up to 1,000 people out across the country,” Paterson says.

The pro-independence side is feeling increasingly optimistic about the outcome of Thursday’s vote. As the group breaks up into teams and starts walking, they are hailed by an elderly passer-by who wants to tell them why he is voting Yes, “England should not be, in this day and age, telling us what to do.”

A blue Volkswagen van drives alongside the marchers with the 1980s hit “One Great Thing” by Dunfermline folk rockers Big Country blaring out over the speakers. Paterson says the Yes campaign has rented six such vehicles for every constituency to help get the vote on polling day.

However, the response from residents is initially more mixed. In particular, it is clear that pensioners are not receptive to the message.

Douglas Doig, who describes himself as a left-leaning accountant, says, “Every time a retired woman opens the door it’s a No. But it’s fine, they are very smiley about it.”

Another householder tells the campaigners, “My heart is saying one thing and my head is saying another. Unless I hear some real hard facts, I’m voting No.”

Reinforcing the message

But it becomes clear as the afternoon goes on that Pollok is swinging towards Yes. The canvass returns at the end of the session show 278 “Yes”, 100 “No”, and 74 “Don’t Knows”. If there is a Yes majority on polling day, communities such as this is where it will come from.

The message was reinforced by a packed public meeting at a local primary school on Monday evening. More than 90 people turned out to hear veteran Nationalist Jim Sillars make the case for independence.

With a voice rasping from speeches night-after-night in towns and villages across the country he says, “I’ve been going around Scotland stirring up the working class and telling you how good you are.”

He preached old-time socialist religion to an audience that wanted to listen, arguing with passion that independence would transform Scottish society, shifting power not only from London to Edinburgh, but away from the elites and back to working people.

“I have been vilified for what I said about BP, the banks and the businessmen. I don’t take back a single word,” says Sillars.

It was the first political meeting that 28-year-old local resident Heather Brown had ever attended.

She says she doesn’t normally vote but Brown knew this one could make a difference to the future. “I would rather come and hear for myself than sit and watch people on Facebook.”

At the beginning of the evening she had been undecided and wanted answers to questions like whether Scotland would keep the pound as a currency if it became independent. She listened intently throughout the meeting, concentrating hard and not joining in with the applause.

Radical Independence will continue because we don’t just want to vote Yes and hope that the politicians will sort out our society, we know that this needs to be a participatory process, and we are not going anywhere after September 18th.

– John Davidson, Radical Independence Campaign

By the end of the night she had made up her mind, “F*** voting No”, she said, “I couldn’t vote No.”

Social revolution

The referendum campaign has seen the return of street politics to Scotland, but it has been given a  21st-Century twist by the innovative use of social media.

Zara Gladman, who is better known as Lady Alba, had the audience in stitches on Monday evening with her version of “Bad Romance”, which pokes fun at No supporters. It has received more than 112,000 hits on YouTube.

“It was quite overwhelming when I saw the number of hits it was getting,” she says. “I don’t think there has ever been a campaign like this where people have been able to use social media and the internet so effectively to make their voices heard.”

Whatever the outcome on Thursday, the energy created by the grassroots independence campaign has changed politics in Scotland, and the politicisation of a new generation will have an impact that reaches far beyond the referendum.

John Davidson from the Radical Independence Campaign says they are already looking at plans to continue the organisation.

“Radical Independence will continue because we don’t just want to vote Yes and hope that the politicians will sort out our society, we know that this needs to be a participatory process, and we are not going anywhere after September 18th.”

Middle East Israel seizes 400 hectares of West Bank land – AlJazeera

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US official describes as “counterproductive” Israeli announcement to appropriate land, said to be largest in 30 years.

AlJazeera

The United States has urged Israel to reverse its decision to seize nearly 400 hectares of land in the occupied West Bank, a move anti-settlement activists termed the largest land grab in 30 years.

Israel announced the massive land appropriation on Sunday in the Etzion settlement bloc near Bethlehem just days after Gaza ceasefire.

A Palestinian official said the latest land grab by Israel would cause only more friction after the Gaza war that left more than 2,000 Palestinians dead and over 10,000 injured.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called on Israel to cancel the appropriation. “This decision will lead to more instability. This will only inflame the situation after the war in Gaza,” presidential spokesman Abu Rdainah said.

A US State Department official called the announcement as “counterproductive to Israel’s stated goal of a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians”.

“We urge the government of Israel to reverse this decision,” the official said in Washington.

Peace Now group, which opposes Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank, territory the Palestinians seek for a state, said the appropriation was meant to turn a site where 10 families now live adjacent to a Jewish seminary into a permanent settlement.

International criticism

Construction of a major settlement at the location, known as “Gevaot”, has been mooted by Israel since 2000. Last year, the government invited bids for the building of 1,000 housing units at the site.

Peace Now said the land seizure was the largest announced by Israel in the West Bank since the 1980s and that anyone with ownership claims had 45 days to appeal. A local Palestinian mayor said Palestinians owned the tracts and harvested olive trees on them.

Israel has come under international criticism over its settlement activities, which most countries regard as illegal under international law and a major obstacle to the creation of a viable Palestinian state in any future peace deal.

Israel has said construction at Gevaot would not constitute the establishment of a new settlement because the site is officially designated a neighbourhood of an existing one, Alon Shvut, several kilometres down the road.

About 500,000 Israelis live among 2.4 million Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territory that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.