Nation & World News http://www.wuft.org/nation-world Nation & World News from WUFT, NPR and PBS Mon, 01 Sep 2014 23:46:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.4 3 Americans Detained In North Korea Urge U.S. To Secure Their Release http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/09/01/3-americans-detained-in-north-korea-urge-u-s-to-secure-their-release/ http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/09/01/3-americans-detained-in-north-korea-urge-u-s-to-secure-their-release/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 19:18:00 +0000 http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/?p=26782 The State Department said the men should be released out of humanitarian concern and asked that Kenneth Bae, who has been held for two years, be granted amnesty.]]>

Three Americans who have been detained in North Korea appealed today to the U.S. to send a senior representative to secure their release.

In interviews with CNN and The Associated Press, Kenneth Bae, Jeffrey Fowle and Matthew Miller detailed the conditions of their imprisonment and urged a quick resolution of their situations.

Bae, a Christian missionary, has been detained the longest. He was arrested in late 2012 and tried and convicted to 15 years of hard labor for the attempted overthrow of North Korea’s communist regime. The 46-year-old has diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney stones. He told CNN that he worked eight hours a day, six days a week at a labor camp, and that he had been suffering from “failing health.”

“I’ve been going back and forth between hospital and to the labor camp for the last year and a half,” he said.

Fowle, 56, was detained in June. At the time, North Korean media said he “acted in violation of the DPRK law, contrary to the purpose of tourism during his stay.” CNN says he is accused of leaving a Bible in a hotel where he was staying.

“Within a month I could be sharing a jail cell with Ken Bae,” Fowle told the AP.

Miller was picked up in April, arrested for what the North called “rash behavior.” He is accused of tearing up his tourist visa and seeking asylum in the North.

He told CNN he wanted to tell the U.S. “my situation is very urgent, that very soon I am going to trial, and I would directly be sent to prison.” He declined to comment on the claim that he was seeking asylum.

Fowle and Miller both said they expected their trials to start in the next month. They both said they do not know what specific charges they face. But both, along with Bae, have signed statements admitting their guilt.

Here’s more from the AP on the conditions under which the interviews were conducted:

“The three were allowed to speak briefly with The Associated Press at a meeting center in Pyongyang. North Korean officials were present during the interviews, conducted separately and in different rooms, but did not censor the questions that were asked. The three said they did not know they were going to be interviewed until immediately beforehand.”

Of its interview, CNN said:

“All three men said they have signed statements admitting their guilt. North Korean officials monitored and recorded all three interviews, and CNN was unable to assess independently the conditions under which the men were being held.”

The U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea and is trying to isolate it over its nuclear program. But The New York Times reports, “The choreography of the interviews seemed to make increasingly clear that North Korea wanted to use the three Americans as bargaining leverage to pressure Washington to engage the country in dialogue.”

Past intercessions, by high-level emissaries such as former President Clinton have resulted in the freeing of Americans.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki urged North Korea to free Bae, Fowle and Miller out of humanitarian concern. She also asked that Bae be granted immunity.

“We continue to work actively to secure these three U.S. citizens’ release,” she said in a statement.

The Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang acts as the United States’ protecting power in North Korea, and its diplomats have met the Americans regularly, the statement said.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
]]>
http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/09/01/3-americans-detained-in-north-korea-urge-u-s-to-secure-their-release/feed/ 0
The Flight Of The Passenger Pigeon, Now 100 Years Extinct http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/09/01/the-flight-of-the-passenger-pigeon-now-100-years-extinct/ http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/09/01/the-flight-of-the-passenger-pigeon-now-100-years-extinct/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 18:15:00 +0000 http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/?p=26779 The Cincinnati Zoo held a commemorative event; the London Zoo stopped the clock outside its bird house at noon. The object of their memorials: Martha, the last passenger pigeon, who died exactly a century ago at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Passenger pigeons were once the world’s most abundant birds. Massive flocks of more than 1 million would darken the sky. But, says the London Zoo, “a huge surge in hunting and deforestation saw them rapidly driven towards extinction in just a few decades, with Martha being the last survivor.

“The demise of the passenger pigeon is one of the fastest and most dramatic extinctions ever witnessed, and ultimately caused, by humans.”

The Cincinnati Zoo held several events to honor Martha, including renovating the building in which she is believed to have lived.

Bird keepers at London Zoo stopped the clock tower outside the Victorian Bird House at noon, the hour Martha died on Sept. 1, 1914.

We’ve told you about Martha before. NPR’s Rae Ellen Bichell reported in July that Martha, who lived at the Cincinnati Zoo until 1914, was a celebrity.

Joel Greenberg, who has written a book about the birds, recounts a report from Ohio in 1854 when people noticed strange clouds forming on the horizon.

“As time went on it became clear that those clouds were birds,” Greenberg told NPR’s Bichell. “And as more time passed, they were plunged into darkness. People who had never seen the phenomenon before fell to their knees in prayer, thinking the end times had come. The down-beating of hundreds of millions of wings created drafts. People were cold.”

But the birds’ tendency to gather in large clusters proved to be their undoing.

“At pennies a piece, they were the cheapest protein on land,” NPR’s Bichell says. “During migrations, so many would line the trees that sometimes branches would snap right off.”

That made the species vulnerable: Hunters used the telegraph to locate the flocks, and that was the beginning of the end. Eventually, there was just Martha. And when she died in 1914, she was encased in a block of ice and shipped to the Smithsonian in Washington where she can still be seen.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
]]>
http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/09/01/the-flight-of-the-passenger-pigeon-now-100-years-extinct/feed/ 0
U.K. Seeks To Expand Terrorism Laws To Target British Fighters http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/09/01/u-k-seeks-to-expand-terrorism-laws-to-target-british-fighters/ http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/09/01/u-k-seeks-to-expand-terrorism-laws-to-target-british-fighters/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 17:10:00 +0000 http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/?p=26774 Prime Minister David Cameron wants to give police the power to seize passports of Islamist fighters bound for Iraq and Syria. On Friday, Britain raised its threat level to "severe" from "substantial."]]>

Prime Minister David Cameron says he wants to give U.K. police the power to seize the passports of Islamist fighters bound for Iraq and Syria.

“We will introduce specific and targeted legislation … providing the police with a temporary power to seize a passport at the border during which time they will be able to investigate the individual concerned,” Cameron told British Parliament today.

His comments, which come just days after Britain raised its terrorism threat level to “severe” from “substantial,” come amid reports of radicalized Europeans, including about 500 Britons, fighting alongside militants of the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria.

Here’s more from the BBC on Cameron’s proposals:

“Legislation will be drawn up to give the police new statutory powers to confiscate the passports of suspect terrorists at UK borders

“The UK will challenge any attempt by the courts to water down these powers

“Plans to block suspected British terrorists from returning to the UK will be drawn up on a “cross-party basis”

“Terrorism prevention and investigation measures (Tpims) will be extended, to include the power to relocate suspects

“Terrorists will be required to undergo de-radicalisation programmes

“Airlines will be forced to hand over more information about passengers travelling to and from conflict zones.”

Meanwhile in Washington, President Obama told Congress that he had authorized targeted airstrikes in Iraq in support of an “operation to deliver humanitarian assistance to the town of [Amerli], where thousands of Shia Turkomen have been cut off from receiving food, water and medical supplies for two months by ISIL.”

ISIL is another name for the Islamic State, which is also sometimes referred to as ISIS.

“The United States Air Force delivered aid to the town of [Amerli] alongside aircraft from Australia, France and the United Kingdom, who also dropped much needed supplies,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.

As NPR’s Peter Kenyon told our Newscast unit this morning, the operation in Amirli brought together unusual allies.

“Iraqi army units and Shiite militiamen advanced on Amerli from one direction, while Kurdish Peshmerga forces moved in from another,” he said.

They were given U.S. and allied air cover.

As The New York Times points out, the operation “appeared to be the first time American warplanes and militias backed by Iran had worked with a common purpose on a battlefield against militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, even though the Obama administration said there was no direct coordination with the militias.”

At a news conference last week, Obama said the Islamic State was continuing to lose arms and equipment because of targeted U.S. strikes against its members in Iraq. But he also acknowledged that the U.S. doesn’t “have a strategy yet” to deal with the Islamic State in Syria, where it has also made gains.

The group controls vast swaths of territory across both countries, and in its brutal campaign has carried out mass executions and targeted non-Muslims, including Christians and members of the tiny Yazidi community.

The U.N. Human Rights Council, meanwhile, approved Iraq’s request into an investigation into crimes against civilians by the Islamic State.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
]]>
http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/09/01/u-k-seeks-to-expand-terrorism-laws-to-target-british-fighters/feed/ 0
For Anniversary, A New Chapter Of ‘Charlie And The Chocolate Factory’ http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/09/01/for-anniversary-a-new-chapter-of-charlie-and-the-chocolate-factory/ http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/09/01/for-anniversary-a-new-chapter-of-charlie-and-the-chocolate-factory/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 14:42:00 +0000 http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/?p=26770 The chapter describes the Vanilla Fudge Room, an extra room in the chocolate factory. In it, Charlie Bucket goes to the factory with his mother – not his grandfather. The book turns 50 this month.]]>

The fan who suddenly got everything he wanted, the writer Roald Dahl never said in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, lived happily ever after. Fans of the beloved children’s classic may not get everything they want, but they are getting a previously unpublished chapter from the book that turns 50 this month.

The chapter, Fudge Mountain, describes the Vanilla Fudge Room, an extra room in the chocolate factory. It was published over the weekend in The Guardian, with permission from Roald Dahl Nominee Ltd., which manages the late writer’s works. It was originally chapter five in an early draft of the book.

In it, Charlie goes to the factory with his mother – not his grandfather.

The Guardian, in a separate article, says the lost chapter was “deemed too wild, subversive and insufficiently moral for the tender minds of British children.” Here’s more from the newspaper:

“The chapter reveals the original larger cast of characters, and their fates, as well as the original names of some of those who survived into later drafts. Dahl originally intended to send Charlie into the chocolate factory with eight other children, but the number was slimmed down to four. The narrator reveals that a girl called Miranda Grope has already vanished into the chocolate river with Augustus Pottle: she is gone for ever, but the greedy boy was reincarnated as Augustus Gloop.”

The new chapter comes weeks after the announcement that publisher Penguin was releasing a new U.K. cover for the book, which was first published in September 1964. That cover was criticized because, in the words of The Washington Post, “Why did the cover of a novel about five kids and a wonderful — if admittedly bizarre — candy-maker look like a scene from “Toddlers & Tiaras“?

Penguin has defended the cover, saying it “highlights the way Roald Dahl’s writing manages to embrace both the light and the dark aspects of life.”

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, in case you need to be reminded of it, follows Charlie Bucket as he makes his way through Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. The book has sold millions of copies and inspired movies as well as a musical.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
]]>
http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/09/01/for-anniversary-a-new-chapter-of-charlie-and-the-chocolate-factory/feed/ 0
Pro-Russia Rebels Say They Will Settle For Autonomy In Ukraine http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/09/01/pro-russia-rebels-say-they-will-settle-for-autonomy-in-ukraine/ http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/09/01/pro-russia-rebels-say-they-will-settle-for-autonomy-in-ukraine/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 13:38:00 +0000 http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/?p=26767 It's a step back from the full independence they were seeking and may reflect a Russian desire to end the crisis, which has led to Moscow's worst ties with the West since the end of the Cold War.]]>

Update at 3:21 p.m. ET

Pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine are no longer demanding full independence, telling negotiators in Belarus that they will respect Ukraine’s sovereignty in exchange for autonomy.

The Associated Press adds:

“It’s a shift that reflects Moscow’s desire to strike a deal at a new round of peace talks — possibly avoiding tougher Western sanctions. The talks follow last week’s meeting between the presidents of Russia and Ukraine. Similar talks earlier this summer produced no visible results.”

Today’s talks in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, lasted for several hours before being adjourned until Friday.

Earlier Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the meeting’s goals should be a cease-fire, but he demanded that Ukrainian troops leave positions from which they can “harm the civilian population.”

Karoun Demirjian, who is reporting for NPR from Moscow, tells our Newscast unit:

“[A] rebel leader in Donetsk told Russian news service Interfax that their main goal is to win recognition of their independence from Kiev.

“During a television interview, Russian President Vladimir Putin said statehood in eastern Ukraine should be one of the topics up for discussion; the Kremlin stressed, though, that Russia isn’t directly supporting calls for independence.

“Meanwhile, Ukraine’s military spokesman says that Russian formations were directly firing on troops at the Luhansk airport overnight. Russian-backed separatists say they seized the airport today.”

Monday’s meeting in Minsk comes a day after a Ukrainian border guard vessel was attacked near the eastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.

NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, who is reporting from Mariupol for Newscast, says Ukrainian officials blamed Russian-backed separatists for the attack on the vessel patrolling in the Sea of Azov. She adds: “The separatist fighters last week launched an offensive along the coastline and now control several towns and villages here.”

The crisis in Ukraine has resulted in the worst ties between Moscow and the West since the end of the Cold War.

Indeed, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN on Sunday that the U.S. should “provide the Ukrainians with the type of defensive weapons that will impose a cost upon Putin for further aggression.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., echoed those calls in an interview with CBS’ Face the Nation.

“Give them the weapons they need,” he said. “Give them the wherewithal they need. Give them the ability to fight.”

In a news conference last week, President Obama blamed Russia for the violence in Ukraine. The administration’s actions against Russia have so far mainly been limited to economic sanctions on Russia’s banking, energy and defense sectors.

“Capital is fleeing, investors are increasingly staying out, his economy is in decline,” Obama said last week. “This ongoing Russian incursion into Ukraine will only bring more costs and consequences for Russia.”

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
]]>
http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/09/01/pro-russia-rebels-say-they-will-settle-for-autonomy-in-ukraine/feed/ 0
Coast Guard Calls Off Search For Small Plane That Crashed In Ocean http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/08/31/coast-guard-calls-off-search-for-small-plane-that-crashed-in-ocean/ http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/08/31/coast-guard-calls-off-search-for-small-plane-that-crashed-in-ocean/#comments Sun, 31 Aug 2014 18:53:00 +0000 http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/?p=26757 The apparently unconscious pilot of the single-engine aircraft drifted into restricted airspace over Washington, prompting F-16s to be scrambled.]]>

The Coast Guard says it has called off a search for the pilot of a single-engine prop plane that drifted into restricted airspace over Washington, D.C., forcing fighter jets to scramble an intercept. The apparently unconscious pilot of the small aircraft later ran out of fuel and plunged into the Atlantic Ocean.

On Saturday, a pair of F-16s were dispatched to escort the Cirrus SR22. When the fighters approached, one of the F-16 pilots observed a person at the controls of the propeller-driven plane who appeared to be unconscious.

In a statement reported by Reuters, the Coast Guard said the F-16s “stayed with the plane as it continued past the coast of Virginia, ran out of fuel and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.”

The Coast Guard launched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew and an HC-130 Hercules airplane crew from Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., and the crew of Cutter Beluga, based in Virginia Beach, to respond, USA Today says.

On Sunday morning, the Coast Guard said it had halted the search “after a civilian boater recovered a wheel and engine cowling from the single-engine Cirrus. [Coast Guard Petty Officer Nate] Littlejohn said the chances of finding anything else were slim,” the newspaper says.

The pilot’s name has not been released pending notification of next of kin.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
]]>
http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/08/31/coast-guard-calls-off-search-for-small-plane-that-crashed-in-ocean/feed/ 0
Corvette-Eating Sinkhole Will Be Filled In, Museum Says http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/08/31/corvette-eating-sinkhole-will-be-filled-in-museum-says/ http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/08/31/corvette-eating-sinkhole-will-be-filled-in-museum-says/#comments Sun, 31 Aug 2014 17:44:00 +0000 http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/?p=26749 When a gaping hole opened up under a clutch of classic cars at the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky, the disaster became a favorite exhibit. But the museum's board has decided to fix it, anyway.]]>

The sinkhole that swallowed up eight cars at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kent., in February quickly became a favorite exhibit for museum visitors, but that’s not enough to head off a decision to fill in the 60-foot wide, 40-foot-deep orifice in the floor.

Reuters reports:

“The board had voted in June to attempt to keep part of the hole open, but the cost of retaining walls and other construction would exceed $1 million, officials at the museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, said in a statement.

“‘We really wanted to preserve a portion of the hole so that guests for years to come could see a little bit of what it was like,’ museum executive director Wendell Strode said in the statement. ‘But after receiving more detailed pricing, the cost outweighs the benefit.’”

As we reported after the Feb. 12 incident, which was witnessed by security cameras, the floor suddenly opened up and consumed six Corvettes owned by the museum, ranging in vintage from 1962 to 2009 and including two GM ZR-1s on loan from General Motors.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
]]>
http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/08/31/corvette-eating-sinkhole-will-be-filled-in-museum-says/feed/ 0
Rebels Reportedly Seize Part Of U.S. Embassy Compound In Tripoli http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/08/31/rebels-reportedly-seize-part-of-u-s-embassy-compound-in-tripoli/ http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/08/31/rebels-reportedly-seize-part-of-u-s-embassy-compound-in-tripoli/#comments Sun, 31 Aug 2014 15:39:00 +0000 http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/?p=26744 Islamic militiamen in the Libyan capital have reportedly seized part of the U.S. embassy compound, which was evacuated more than a month ago amid concerns over the safety of diplomatic staff.

The Associated Press says one of its journalists “walked through the compound Sunday after the Dawn of Libya, an umbrella group for Islamist militias, invited onlookers inside. Windows at the compound had been broken, but it appeared most of the equipment there remained untouched.

“A commander for the Dawn of Libya group said his forces had entered and been in control of the compound since last week,” the AP says.

A video posted online shows men crowded under a veranda and diving from a balcony into a pool below. U.S. Ambassador to Libya Safira Deborah tweeted that the video appeared to have been shot at the embassy’s residential annex. (Update at 9:15 a.m. ET on Sept. 1: A message on the YouTube video states that the footage is unavailable “due to a copyright claim by video libya.”

On July 26, U.S. diplomats left the compound and went to neighboring Tunisia under a U.S. military escort. The State Department said embassy operations would be suspended until the security situation improved.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
]]>
http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/08/31/rebels-reportedly-seize-part-of-u-s-embassy-compound-in-tripoli/feed/ 0
Hong Kong Activists Protest China’s Control Of Leadership Vote http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/08/31/hong-kong-activists-protest-chinas-control-of-leadership-vote/ http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/08/31/hong-kong-activists-protest-chinas-control-of-leadership-vote/#comments Sun, 31 Aug 2014 15:04:00 +0000 http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/?p=26740 People in the former British colony are angered that a vote for the territory's next chief executive will be from a list of candidates hand-pickled by Beijing.]]>

Pro-democracy activists have taken to the streets in Hong Kong to protest China’s rejection of pleas that the territory hold an open election for its next chief executive three years from now.

As NPR’s Frank Langfitt reports, the protesters say they will attempt to paralyze the city’s financial district with protests after an announcement that gives the territory a vote in 2017, but only from a group of candidates hand-picked by a pro-Beijing committee.

The pro-democracy movement, known as Occupy Central — a reference to the city’s main business district — says in a statement that Beijing’s approach deprives voters of genuine choice.

“Instead of trying to gain the trust of the people, something governments have always had to do, our central government is now afraid of the people and has lost their trust,” the group said in a statement.

Frank says: “Officials in Beijing argue that Western-style democracy is not appropriate for such a huge country as China. Successful, open elections in Hong Kong, which is a former British colony, could make that argument a little harder to make.”

The BBC quotes Benny Tai Yiu-ting, co-founder of the Occupy Central protest group, as saying China’s move means “the end of any dialogue.

“In the next few weeks, Occupy Central will start wave after wave of action,” he said. “We will organize a full-scale act of occupying Central.”

A former mainland official has warned that “blood will be shed” if Occupy doesn’t back down.

As we noted back in June, a 100,000-strong march in Hong Kong to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre was followed soon after by a “white paper” from Beijing that signaled a heavier-handed response to dissent.

Later that month, an unofficial referendum on democracy in the territory garnered more than 780,000 votes over the course of 10 days.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, was returned to Beijing in 1997 in an agreement that made the territory a “special administrative region” of China and was supposed to guarantee a degree of autonomy over its affairs in what the Chinese leadership has described as a “one country, two systems” approach to governance.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
]]>
http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/08/31/hong-kong-activists-protest-chinas-control-of-leadership-vote/feed/ 0
Putin Calls For Talks To Consider Statehood For Southeastern Ukraine http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/08/31/putin-calls-for-talks-to-consider-statehood-for-southeastern-ukraine/ http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/08/31/putin-calls-for-talks-to-consider-statehood-for-southeastern-ukraine/#comments Sun, 31 Aug 2014 14:06:00 +0000 http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/?p=26732 The Russian leader said "substantive, meaningful talks" were needed to decide the outcome in the region, while a spokesman clarified that the region should remain part of Ukraine.]]>

Update at 10:35 a.m. ET

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for “meaningful talks” to end the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine, reiterating that the Kremlin, which is said to have allowed thousands of its soldiers to join the rebels, views the situation as an internal dispute.

“Substantive, meaningful talks should begin immediately … related to the issues of society’s political organization and statehood in southeastern Ukraine to protect legitimate interests of people living there,” Tass quoted Putin as saying.

Over the weekend, separatists, with the apparent backing of Russian soldiers, captured the city of Novoazovsk in the southern Donetsk region on the coast of the Sea of Azov. As NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports, the move has prompted fears that the city of Mariupol, just west of Novoazovsk, is next in line.

Reuters reports:

“Asked later about Putin’s remarks, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk: “This is not a conflict between Russia and Ukraine, this is a domestic Ukrainian conflict.”

“Pressed on whether Moscow felt that ‘Novorossiya’ – [or 'New Russia,'] the name the rebels give to the widely Russian-speaking region in dispute – should remain part of Ukraine, Peskov said: ‘Of course.’

“‘Only Ukraine can reach an agreement with Novorossiya, taking into account the interests of Novorossiya, and this is the only way to reach political settlement,’ Peskov said.”

The remarks follow an announcement of new European Union sanctions on Russia over its military involvement in Ukraine. The EU said the sanctions, designed to hit a number of sectors of the Russian economy, would go into effect within a week unless Moscow “[withdraws] all its military assets and forces from Ukraine,” the European Council said.

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko also said Saturday that his nation is “close to the point of no return,” and that the next step might be “full-scale war.”

“We have thousands of foreign troops and hundreds of foreign tanks now on the territory of Ukraine with a very high risk not only for the peace and stability of Ukraine, but the whole peace and stability of Europe,” Poroshenko said in Brussels.

Despite Moscow’s denials, NATO, citing surveillance and intelligence reports, says there are at least 1,000 Russian soldiers fighting here and the Ukrainians report armored columns coming across the border.

NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, reporting from Mariupol, says both the separatists and Kiev’s forces are getting ready for an anticipated assault on the strategic port. Its fall would bring the separatists one step closer to a corridor stretching from Russian territory to Moscow’s newly annexed Crimean peninsula.

Ukrainian forces and residents are working side-by-side to beef up Mariupol’s defenses — laying mines, digging trenches and erecting concrete barriers. Two armed battalions, paid for by two powerful Ukrainian oligarchs, will fight alongside their country’s military to repel the advancing rebels, Soraya says.

As for the question of Russian involvement, she says, it’s clear someone is supplying the rebels:

“The fighters are wearing new military-grade camouflage uniforms and boots. Some carry high-grade Kalashnikovs used by professional soldiers. At least one checkpoint guard has a Russian accent. And a tank we saw looked a lot like a T-72, which the Russians use.”

Joseph Dempsey, a military analyst with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, is quoted by the BBC as saying the appearance of late model T-72s on the battlefield in eastern Ukraine is a sure sign of Russian involvement:

“This variant, distinguished by the prominent Kontakt-5 Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) arrangement – the boxes on the turret front – is commonly referred to by Western sources as the T-72BM.

“It is operated by the Russian Army in large numbers, but crucially it is not known to have been exported or operated outside of Russia.”

Soraya spoke to a rebel battalion commander who calls himself “Svat” and says he’s a lieutenant colonel with the Ukrainian army reserves.

“Svat is confident his men will take Mariupol because they are better fighters and have a higher morale,” she says. “He adds they are prepared to go all the way to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv to create Novorossiya, or New Russia.”

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
]]>
http://www.wuft.org/nation-world/2014/08/31/putin-calls-for-talks-to-consider-statehood-for-southeastern-ukraine/feed/ 0