Reuters blog archive
Pro-Russia separatists at talks with representatives from Moscow and the OSCE in Minsk said they would be prepared to stay part of Ukraine if they were granted "special status", which is unlikely to be acceptable to Kiev.
The talks will continue later in the week and come as the Ukrainian military faced a run of reverses on the battlefield which Kiev says have been engineered by the intervention of at least 1,600 Russian combat troops.
In the latest in a string of setbacks, Ukraine's military said it had pulled back from defending a vital airport near the city of Luhansk, where troops had been battling a Russian tank battalion. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accused Russia of "direct and undisguised aggression" which he said had radically changed the battlefield balance. Moscow denies it is involved.
All that means the United States and EU must surely toughen their sanctions on Russia although several EU countries heavily dependent on Russian gas, including the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria, are opposed to new measures, which require unanimous agreement.
A day before the European Central Bank’s monthly policy meeting, ECB President Mario Draghi will travel to Luxembourg for talks with incoming European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. Oh to be a fly on the wall.
Some in the ECB are concerned that ultra-low sovereign borrowing costs and Draghi’s “whatever it takes” promise has relieved pressure on euro zone governments to carry on with structural economic reforms.
Juncker has signalled he is comfortable with a Franco-Italian drive to focus on growth and job creation rather than cutting debt.
Scottish nationalist leader Alex Salmond and former British finance minister Alistair Darling, who is fronting the campaign to remain part of the United Kingdom, go head-to-head in the first and possibly only live television debate of the campaign. It is a bigger moment for Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, who must garner a shift in the polls which consistently put his “Yes” campaign significantly behind with the referendum only six weeks away.
At the last British general election, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg was widely perceived to have won the leaders’ debates yet it didn’t translate into votes. There are, however, a large number of “don’t knows” to play for in Scotland and Salmond is by common consent the more charismatic figure and slick orator.
During the two-hour debate, Darling is likely to highlight the uncertainty over whether an independent Scotland could retain the pound and automatically be part of the EU and how the nationalists would fund their public spending pledges.
A recent report on Syria’s growing refugee crisis showed the extent to which fears of sexual violence are driving women out of the warn-torn country.
But the trail of gender-based violence and abuse also follows women out of Syria to camps, where they are also vulnerable, even under the watch of aid organizations.
from Photographers' Blog:
By Maria Semerdjian
Joziane Shedid - that was her name.
After a difficult search, we had managed to identify the blood-soaked young woman in a picture taken by Reuters photographer Hasan Shaaban in the wake of a powerful bomb explosion in Beirut.
We found it difficult to identity the girl because at first we didn’t realize she was the older sister of Jennifer Shedid, another bomb victim Hasan photographed that fateful day, who was even more severely injured and almost lost her life.
from The Human Impact:
Medical assistance is at risk for thousands of Syrians fleeing into Lebanon who are living in overcrowded conditions, suffering psychological distress and unable to afford medical care, according to a new survey from charity Medecins Sans Frontieres(MSF).
At least 60,000 Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon to escape fighting in their country since conflict broke out almost 18 months ago, according to UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency.
from Global Investing:
Serving wine instead of beer at its annual rooftop soiree? Is this some kind of subliminal message specialist broker Auerbach Grayson is trying to send, ie: that emerging markets are mature and here’s the vino to prove it?
Or, is the message not in a bottle but in a case? Don’t limit your exposure to emerging markets but increase it for growth. Only a slight problem here in that emerging market stocks are underperforming developed markets so far this year. They underperformed in 2011 as well.
Syria can set fire to Lebanon at the wave of a hand. Hezbollah can be ordered into battle with Israel at the command of a call from Tehran. Lebanon’s sectarian politics are a plaything of outsiders whose every whim determines the fate of the country. These are among the conventional wisdoms that have long held the fate of Lebanon hostage -- assumptions as widely held within the country as outside it. But a closer look suggests that it is high time these preconceived notions are challenged -- not because they lack a basis in reality, but because they are rooted as much in what the country’s enemies, from Damascus to Tehran, wish to be the dominant narrative as what the far more complex conditions on the ground merit.
Today, as Syria’s civil war gains speed and severity, and the crisis of Iran’s nuclear program escalates by the day, Beirut is holding its breath -- too fearful and too scarred by a war-torn history to imagine anything but the worst-case scenario. And yet, the reality as acknowledged by a growing number of Lebanese observers is more complex. If Assad really could create the distraction he needs from renewed conflict in Lebanon with such ease, would he not already have done so? If Hezbollah is nothing but an arm of Iran’s forward defense, would it not have been the first agent called into action, as opposed to Tehran’s other alleged responses -- from the plot to assassinate the Saudi envoy to Washington to the recent attacks on Israeli diplomats in Delhi, Bangkok and Tbilisi? As Tom Fletcher, the British ambassador to Lebanon, pointed out to me on a recent visit to Beirut, just as Sinn Fein and Hamas discovered in their time, Hezbollah’s role in the current government means that it is having to make compromises and shift from the comfortable politics of opposition.
Middle East Christians are struggling to keep hope alive with Arab Spring democracy movements promising more political freedom but threatening religious strife that could decimate their dwindling ranks. Scenes of Egyptian Muslims and Christians protesting side by side in Cairo's Tahrir Square five months ago marked the high point of the euphoric phase when a new era seemed possible for religious minorities chafing under Islamic majority rule.