A US-led military maneuver has begun in western Ukraine, amid continued fighting between government troops and pro-Russian forces in the country’s east.
The military drill, dubbed “Rapid Trident 14,” started early Monday near Ukraine’s border with Poland and involves 1,300 troops from over a dozen countries.
According to the US army, the troops come from 12 NATO members, including Germany, the UK, Poland, Norway and Canada, as well as non-members Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova.
The eleven-day drills will take place near the western city of Yavoriv and will not involve the live firing of weapons.
The US Defense Ministry said the exercise will increase interoperability among Ukraine and the participating nations.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey earlier announced that NATO member states have begun supplying weapons to the country’s forces despite a truce between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russians.
Meanwhile, heavy fighting between government troops and pro-Russian forces continues around the eastern city of Donetsk. According to Donetsk city hall officials, six civilians were killed on Sunday in heavy shelling around the city and its airport.
Kiev accused pro-Russians of threatening the truce by intensifying attacks against government positions. This is while, on September 13, the pro-Russia forces defending a checkpoint near the village of Olenivka, south of Donetsk accused the Ukrainian army of violating the truce.
The ceasefire agreement was reached between Kiev and the pro-Russians on September 5, after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko hammered out a compromise deal aimed at ending the heavy fighting.
Germany and Poland will lose the most trade with Russia, and neighboring Finland and Baltic states Lithuania and Latvia will lose a bigger proportion of their GDP. Norway will see fish sales to Russia disappear, and US damages would be very limited.
Russia has banned imports of fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and dairy products from the 28 countries of the EU, the US, Canada, Norway, and Australia for one year.
EU trade is heavily dependent on Russian food imports. Last year Russia bought $16 billion worth of food from the bloc, or about 10 percent of total exports, according to Eurostat.
In terms of losses, Germany, Poland and the Netherlands- the top three EU food suppliers to Russia in 2013 – will be hit hardest. Food for Russia makes up around 3.3 percent of total German exports.
French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said his government is already working together with Germany and Poland to reach a coordinated policy on the new Russian sanction regime.
Last year, Ireland exported €4.5 million worth of cheese to Russia, and not being able to do so this year is a big worry, Simon Coveney, the country’s agriculture minister, said.
Farmers across Europe could face big losses if they aren’t able to find alternative markets for their goods, especially fruit and vegetables.
Some are already demanding their governments provide compensation for lost revenue.
“If there isn’t a sufficient market, prices will go down, and we don’t know if we can cover the costs of production, because it is so expensive,” Jose Emilio Bofi, an orange farmer in Spain, told RT.
Norway’s Health Ministry is considering a proposal on regulating the circumcision of boys. Some political parties are calling on a complete ban of the practice on minors, a possibility that would affect Jewish and Muslim communities.
Two years ago, the ministry was tasked with reviewing circumcision and how it should be practiced in Norway. It is yet to finalize its stance, but intends to submit its legislative proposal before Easter next year, Health Minister Bent Hoie told Aftenposten, Norway’s largest newspaper.
The issue was brought to public attention after the recent call by Norway Children’s Ombudswoman Anne Lindboe to ban circumcision of boys before age 16, unless the procedure is warranted by medical needs.
“This is not due to any lack of understanding of minorities or religious traditions, but because the procedure is irreversible, painful and risky,” she argued.
Lindboe’s position is shared by some members of the Labor Party, which currently holds the largest share of 55 seats in Norway’s 169-strong legislative and is in opposition to the ruling Conservative-Progress coalition.
“As a modern society, we should work to eliminate practices that expose children and people to unnecessary suffering,” said Labor’s Ruth Mari Grung, who is a member of the parliamentary Committee on Health and Care Services.
A ban is also supported by the Center Party, which has 10 seats in the parliament.
Other parliamentary parties are yet to formulate their official position on the issue. Hoie, a Conservative member, who used to chair the Health Committee before getting his ministerial appointment, voiced concerns that a ban would force the groups practicing ritual circumcision underground, where the procedure would be performed by non-medics and pose greater health risks to the children.
The Norwegian lawmakers also disagree on whether circumcision should be covered by the budget under the national healthcare system. Some parties insist that ritual circumcision should be paid for by parents.
According to the newspaper, an average of about 2,000 Muslim and seven Jewish newborns are circumcised in Norway each year.
Regulation of ritual circumcision in Europe made the headlines in June, when a German court ruled that the procedure constitutes a minor bodily harm and outlawed performing it on minors. The decision sparked nationwide debate on the conflict between religious freedoms and protection of children.
The issue was further stressed in early October, when the Council of Europe branded the practice “a violation of the physical integrity of children” and called on EU members to protect children. The latter should include a ban on performing circumcision on those who cannot consent to it, the non-binding resolution said.
Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland and Greenland are among the European countries where public debate on ritual circumcision of boys is hotly debated.
Norway, Russia’s closest rival in the European gas market, seems to overtaking Russia’s Gazprom. Norway boasted record high exports in 2012, while Gazprom suffered the worst numbers in 10 years.
Norway increased its exports 16% in 2012 to reach 107.6bn cubic metres, according to Europe’s key statistics office Eurostat. This is “a record level, close to the Russian gas exports to Europe,” Michael Korchyomkin, head of East European Gas Analysis, told Kommersant daily.
During the same period, Russia’s gas giant Gazprom cut sales to Europe and Turkey by 8%, according to the company’s head Aleksey Miller. That’s the lowest export level for the last decade, Korchyomkin said.
At the moment Norway is breathing down Russia’s neck in its key European market – Germany. In 2011 Gazprom supplied 30bln cubic meters out of the total 80bn cubic meters of gas Germany consumes annually. Norway sold just a bit less – 28bn cubic meters. Norway’s Statoil accounts for about 70% of the country’s exports and in 2012 signed a 10 year contract to supply gas to Germany’s Wintershall.
Norway’s lower gas prices are another tool to win customers. The country’s Petroleum Ministry is suggesting charges for gas transportation in new contracts should be significantly cut, according to Reuters citing Norwegian Petroleum Minister Ola Borten Moe.The exact price cut remains unclear, with Kommersant daily assessing it at 7%.
Competitive pricing has become a crucial issue at a time when crisis – stricken Europe can’t afford huge bills.
On Thursday Gazprom 9M 2012 IFRS results showed things are not that rosy for Russia’s’ gas monopoly. The company’s profit for the period was down 12% year on year to $27.1bn, with the net sales of gas decreasing by 8% year on year, to about $61.4bn.
Net sales exclude the amounts paid by the company in form of value added tax and customs duties.
Earlier in the week Fitch rating agency predicted a further fall of sales for Gazprom in 2013, referring to weak economic conditions and slack demand.
BOGOTA – Colombia’s government will soon begin talks that could lead to formal negotiations for peace with the country’s biggest guerrilla group, known as the FARC, according to a Colombian intelligence source.
As part of the deal to hold talks, the government has agreed that leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia would not be extradited to another country to stand trial, he said.
One aide at President Juan Manuel Santos’ office has flatly denied that any talks are taking place, but a second aide said only that any official word on peace dealings would come from Santos himself.
Details of the accord are still being worked out, but the negotiations could take place in Cuba and in Norway, the source said.
However from Caracas the editor in chief of Telesur, the Venezuelan television news channel, Jorge Botero said that secret talks date back to May in Havana with the attendance of unofficial delegates from Colombia, plus representatives from Venezuela, Cuba and Norway.
“Formal dialogue is anticipated for next October in Oslo”, said Botero. He added that from Norway representatives from the Colombian government and FARC will then travel to Havana where “they will sit to negotiate and won’t leave the table until a peace deal is reached”.
A year ago the head of FARC Alfonso Cano announced that the guerrilla was ready for talks to end the half a century Colombian internal war.
News of the peace talks is likely to anger Santos’ predecessor Alvaro Uribe who has criticised any idea of talks with the rebels and has slammed Santos for wanting “peace at any cost.”
The originally Marxist oriented FARC but now financed by drugs and which calls itself “the people’s army” defending peasant rights, has battled about a dozen administrations since surfacing in 1964, when its founder Manuel Marulanda and 48 rebels took to jungle hide-outs triggering an internal conflict involving Colombian forces and thousands of recruited guerrillas.
The group has faced its toughest defeats in recent years as US-trained special forces use sophisticated technology and spy networks to track the leaders.
The FARC string of defeats began in 2008 with a cross-border military raid into Ecuador that killed Raul Reyes its second in command. Marulanda died of a heart attack weeks later and was replaced by Alfonso Cano, who was later killed too.
- Colombia to meet with rebels in Oslo: ex-VP (thelocal.no)
- Colombian president confirms peace talks with FARC; first round Oslo in October (en.mercopress.com)
By Alan Hart | April 19, 2012
Let’s start with a glance at what they do not have in common. The man now on trial for killing 77 people in bomb and gun attacks in Norway last July has admitted, even boasted about, what he did. Netanyahu denies Zionism’s crimes.
The main thing they have in common stems from the fact that they both live in fantasy worlds of their own creation and talk a lot of extreme rightwing nonsense.
The nonsense Anders Breivik speaks is driven in general by his fears about the consequences for Norway of immigration and multiculturalism and, in particular, by his vision of an Islamic takeover. The nonsense Netanyahu speaks is driven by his perception of Israel in danger of
As he tells and sells it, the current biggest threat to Israel’s existence is, of course, Iran. Arguably the single most ridiculous statement he has made to date on this subject was in 2006 when, as the chairman of Likud, he addressed a gathering of Jewish American organizations. He said then, “It’s 1938 and Iran is Germany.”
So what Breivik and Netanyahu have in common is, it seems to me, the mania of victimhood.
That’s a condition which Yehoshafat Harkabi, Israel’s longest serving Director of Military Intelligence, warned about in his book Israel’s Fateful Hour. After confirming a Zionist offer to do business with Nazi Germany on terms outlined in a proposed agreement which stated that Zionist forces would “take part in the war on Germany’s side,” (the full story is in my book), Harkabi wrote this:
“It is doubtful whether the long history of the Jews, full as it is with oddities and cruel ironies, has ever known such an attempt to make a deal with rabid enemies – of course, ostensibly for reasons of higher political wisdom… Perhaps, for peace of mind, we ought to see this affair as an aberrant episode in Jewish history. Nevertheless, it should alert us to how far extremists may go in times of distress, and where their manias may lead.”
We know where Breivik’s mania led him.
We can only speculate about where Netanyahu’s mania will lead his Israel. On present course its final destination seems to be disaster. The question is, will it be disaster only for the Zionist enterprise or disaster for the region and possibly the whole world?
A generally accepted definition of mania (there are others) is “mental illness marked by periods of great excitement, euphoria, delusions and over activity.”