Sabtu, 19 April 2014

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The Star Online: World Updates

Angry relatives clash with police as Korea recovers more dead from ferry

Posted: 19 Apr 2014 07:45 PM PDT

JINDO, South Korea (Reuters) - Distraught relatives of hundreds of missing people inside a sunken South Korean ferry clashed with police on Sunday as coastguard divers retrieved more bodies from the ship and the number of confirmed dead rose to 49.

A rescue operation has turned into a grim search through the stricken vessel to recover the remaining 253 passengers, most of them schoolchildren on an outing, who are unaccounted for after Wednesday's capsize.

Searchers retrieved 16 bodies overnight and coastguard officials said cranes would not be deployed to lift the ship off the seabed until the bodies had been recovered.

The 69-year-old captain, Lee Joon-seok, was arrested on Saturday on charges of negligence along with two other crew members, including the third mate who was steering at the time of the capsize.

Prosecutors said the mate was steering the Sewol through the waters where it listed and capsized for the first time in her career. The ship was on a 400-km (300-mile) voyage from Incheon to the southern holiday island of Jeju island.

Until Saturday night, coastguard divers had struggled to get into the passenger quarters of the ferry which sank in 27 metres (86 feet) of water in calm seas while on the well-travelled route.

Though shallow, the murky sea is subject to some of the fiercest currents around the Korean peninsula. But ropes have been fixed to guide divers into the vessel and back out.

"We are now putting in four guide lines, before there was only one, so their access will become faster," Ko Myung-suk, a coast guard official, told a news briefing in the rescue centre in the port of Jindo.

The sinking looks set to be the country's worst maritime disaster in 21 years in terms of loss of life.

South Korean officials are still characterising the operation as a "rescue" although marine experts say that it is unlikely that there are any survivors.

Up to 100 relatives gathered near a bridge linking Jindo island to the mainland and tried to march across to take their protest to the capital, Seoul.

But police formed two lines to prevent the pushing and shoving relatives reaching the bridge.

"Bring me the body," said weeping mother Bae Sun-ok as she was comforted by two policemen at the bridge.


Early reports suggest that the ferry may have turned sharply and then listed before capsizing.

It took about two hours to go over but passengers were ordered to stay put in their cabins and not go up to the deck where they might have been rescued.

Asked why that order was given instead of abandoning the ship, Lee, apparently overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster, told reporters on Saturday he feared they would have been swept out to sea in the strong, cold current.

Of the 476 passengers and crew, 339 were either pupils or teachers from a high school in Ansan, a commuter city outside Seoul.

Relatives gathered in a gymnasium in Jindo have spent four days and nights awaiting news of their loved ones.

The vice-principal of the school, who was on the ferry and survived the capsize, hanged himself outside the gymnasium.

Investigations are looking at how the cargo was stowed, the safety record of the ship operator and the actions of the crew.

Witnesses say the captain and other crew members left the sinking ship before many of the passengers and that orders to evacuate were either not given, or not heard.

Lee has not explained why he left the vessel.

(Reporting by Jumin Park; Writing by David Chance; Editing by Sandra Maler and Robert Birsel)

Surrender talks set with separatists in Ukraine as standoff lasts into Easter

Posted: 19 Apr 2014 06:20 PM PDT

DONETSK/KIEV (Reuters) - A senior mediator from Europe's OSCE security body is due to start negotiating the surrender of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, although hopes for a rapid end to the crisis are limited.

Gunmen occupying public buildings in Donetsk and other Russian-speaking border towns refuse to recognise an accord in Geneva on Thursday by which Russia, Ukraine and Kiev's U.S. and EU allies agreed that the OSCE should oversee the disarmament of militants and the evacuation of occupied facilities and streets.

The coming days may determine whether unrest following the overthrow of Ukraine's pro-Moscow president can be contained.

Russia, which annexed Crimea last month in the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War, denies directing the separatists or planning to invade. Western powers threaten more economic sanctions if Moscow does not persuade the militants to give up.

Germany's foreign minister, however, sounded a cautious note on Sunday. "We've already exhaustively discussed the sanctions issue," Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Bild newspaper, calling for more effort to go into avoiding an "escalation" of the conflict.

Reliant on Russian gas and eager to keep exporting to Russia, Berlin and other EU governments are less keen on sanctions than the United States, which threatened new measures on Friday.

Mark Etherington, a British diplomat who is deputy head of the OSCE special mission in Ukraine, is due to start talks in the eastern city of Donetsk on Sunday, officials of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe said.

After a meeting in Kiev on Saturday with diplomats from the four parties to the Geneva accord, Swiss envoy Christian Schoenenberger, whose country is chair of the OSCE, said its monitors had already spoken to the separatists: "For the time being the political will is not there to move out," he said.

"That's the task of the monitors, to create this political will, inform the people, so eventually they will understand that the best option for them is to move out," he told reporters.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia, who warned on Friday of "more concrete actions" to end the standoff if there were no movement over the Easter weekend, said after the meeting that the senior OSCE officials and the local authorities in the east would "work out practical steps for the implementation of the Geneva agreement in the course of the next day or two".

In Donetsk, separatist leaders renewed calls for a referendum that could see Ukraine's industrial heartland annexed by Russia. A poll by an institute in Kiev, however, suggested a majority did not favour rule from Moscow, despite widespread suspicion among Russian speakers of the new leadership in Kiev.

Ukraine's government, short of effective forces, has shown little sign of trying to recapture the dozen or so town halls, police stations and other sites seized over the past two weeks, despite proclaiming the launch of an "anti-terrorist operation".


The Foreign Ministry promised "the suspension of the active phase of the anti-terrorist operation" among a list of initiatives to defuse the crisis issued late on Friday. The SBU state security service said the suspension was "linked to the implementation of the Geneva agreement and the Easter holidays".

The government has explained its lack of visible action beyond setting up security checkpoints by a desire not to hurt civilians. That would risk provoking the intervention Russia has threatened if Russian blood is shed. But lack of resources and training also helps explain the hesitation. Ukrainian troops lost half a dozen armoured vehicles to militants last week.

"An Easter truce may show goodwill - or perhaps just Kiev's total impotence," said Igor, one of the masked men guarding the occupied headquarters of Donetsk's regional government.

"If it's impotence, then we've won. If they're getting ready to provoke us, then we will hit back with force."

Several people have been killed in violence in the past week. On Saturday, a serviceman was killed in Donetsk in what the Defence Ministry described as an accident.

As Orthodox Christians in Russia and Ukraine celebrated the start of Easter Sunday at candlelit midnight services, the head of the Ukrainian church struck a confrontational note, accusing Russia of "aggression" and saying "evil" would be defeated.

"Against our peace-loving nation, which voluntarily gave up nuclear weapons, there has been aggression," Patriarch Filaret said, referring to a 1994 treaty by which Kiev gave up its Soviet-era nuclear arsenal in return for security guarantees from Moscow.

"A country which guaranteed the integrity and inviolability of our territory has committed aggression.


After weeks of bitter mutual recriminations, Vladimir Putin held out the prospect of better relations with the West on Saturday, but the Russian president made clear it would depend on concessions from his adversaries in the crisis over Ukraine.

"I think there is nothing that would hinder a normalisation and normal cooperation," he said in an interview to be broadcast by Russian state television in which he commented favourably on the appointment of a new head of NATO. "This does not depend on us, or rather not only on us. This depends on our partners."

Moscow says its interest is only to protect its borders and Russian speakers in Ukraine from "fascists" and others who overthrew President Viktor Yanukovich after he sparked months of protests by rejecting closer ties with the EU.

The United States and European Union have imposed limited sanctions on Russian officials over Crimea but are struggling to find a common approach to curbing what they see as a drive by Moscow to recover control of its former empire.

Russia has long complained that NATO's extension of membership to Moscow's Cold War satellites in Eastern Europe and deepening ties to ex-Soviet states like Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are part of an aggressive policy to undermine it.

Years of Western disdain for Russia's struggles with the legacy of the communist collapse also lie behind Putin's demands - hugely popular at home - that Moscow be treated with respect. His spokesman hit back on Friday at threats of sanctions from Washington, saying it treated Russia like a "guilty schoolboy".


Huge unknowns hang over the situation. Putin's ultimate goal may not be the Crimean-style annexation of Ukraine's industrial heartland, despite his comments in a major public appearance on Thursday in which he recalled that what is now eastern and southern Ukraine was the tsars' New Russia.

Many analysts believe Putin is mainly seeking to influence events in Ukraine and ensure a favourable outcome in next month's election following the loss of Russian ally Yanukovich.

That in turn raises questions about the role of Ukraine's rich business "oligarchs" in the crisis and the election.

Conspiracy theories abound in Kiev, according to which the rich and powerful may be fomenting unrest behind the scenes to further their own ends or to curry favour with Putin, who holds sway over the Russian business interests of Ukrainian tycoons.

The Ukrainian government has been at pains to show it is ready to meet the demands of people in the east for greater local autonomy and rights to use the Russian language.

With a presidential election to replace Yanukovich planned for May 25, the government also needs to convince Ukrainians that 23 years of corruption and economic mismanagement under various leaders might come to end and give the state a better future.

A poll by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology for the Zerkalo Nedeli newspaper found less than a third of people in the easternmost regions of Donetsk and Luhansk would vote for rule from Moscow and less than a quarter said they supported the takeover of public buildings in their regions by armed men.

Nonetheless, fear of "fascist" Ukrainian nationalists in Kiev, and worries for employment in the mines and factories, are widespread: "I lost my job in February when all of this chaos started in Kiev," said Nina Nebesna, 30, a mother of two, as she headed in to Donetsk's stadium to watch the local soccer derby.

"Now I can't find work anywhere," she said. "I don't recognise the junta that took power in Kiev. Those boys are standing up for our rights," she said of the local militants.

Local miner, Mikhail Belogurov, 55, said a move in the Kiev parliament after Yanukovich fell to curb Russian-language rights was "really stupid" and he wanted "the authorities in Kiev to pay more attention to us". But he was sceptical of the aims of the pro-Russian separatists: "We don't know who the people in the buildings are," he said. " We don't know what they want."

(Additional reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic in Donetsk, Thomas Grove in Slaviansk, Ukraine, Pavel Polityuk in Kiev and Conor Humphries, Vladimir Soldatkin and Christian Lowe in Moscow; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Peter Cooney)

At Easter, Ukrainian church condemns Russian 'aggression'

Posted: 19 Apr 2014 05:20 PM PDT

KIEV (Reuters) - As Russians and Ukrainians celebrated Easter on Sunday with their nations locked in conflict, the head of Ukraine's Orthodox Church condemned Russian "aggression" and said "evil" would be defeated.

"Against our peace-loving nation, which voluntarily gave up nuclear weapons, there has been aggression, there has been injustice," Patriarch Filaret said in his Easter message, as quoted by local media. "A country which guaranteed the integrity and inviolability of our territory has committed aggression.

"God cannot be on the side of evil, so the enemy of the Ukrainian people is condemned to defeat," he said. "Lord, help us resurrect Ukraine."

It was a strikingly outspoken intervention at a time when many Ukrainians said they were praying for peace with their former Soviet neighbour on a day when Christians celebrate Jesus rising from the dead after his crucifixion.

The acting president, Oleksander Turchinov, confined his Easter message to expressions of hope for better days: "We are living in a fateful time," he said, "when the Ukrainian people have decisively affirmed their striving for freedom and justice."

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, which still has the loyalty of many congregations across Ukraine despite political strains between the two countries, called for peace.

"Our special prayer today is for the peoples of Russia and Ukraine, so that peace should reign in the hearts and minds of our brothers and sisters by blood and by faith, so that the ties that we have lost, and much-needed cooperation, should be restored," Patriarch Kirill said in his Easter message.


Following an uprising in Kiev that overthrew the Kremlin-backed Ukrainian president in February, Russia annexed Crimea last month and pro-Moscow separatists are now occupying public buildings in the Russian-speaking east of the country and pressing for their regions also to be ruled from Moscow.

Ukraine gave up Soviet nuclear weapons based on its territory in 1994 in a treaty under which Russia, along with the United States and Britain, guaranteed Ukrainian sovereignty.

The Ukrainian government and its Western allies accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of fomenting unrest - something he denies. International monitors hope to start implementing an agreement to disarm Ukrainian militants in the coming days.

Orthodox Christian religious practice has flourished in Russia and Ukraine since the collapse of Soviet communism.

Among the faithful who came to pray at midnight at St. Volodymyr's Cathedral in central Kiev, welcoming the resurrection to the frantic ringing of the bells, many said they were worried by developments but felt no hostility to Russians.

"Everyone is praying for peace," said Natasha, a 25-year-old student as she arrived, scarf over her head, with a basket of Easter eggs to be given a traditional blessing by the priests.

Antonina Pavelets, a physicist walking home with a flickering lantern from the church, said the Kremlin simply failed to understand that "Ukrainians are a different people".

Her husband, Serhiy, labouring under the weight of two baskets of eggs, said: "We want to be close to Russia, but to be on our own." He believed separatists in the east were a minority.

"At the end of the day," he said, "Ukraine will stay united."

(Additional reporting by Christian Lowe in Moscow; Editing by Peter Cooney)


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