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VOA 2014-03-18
03-19-2014, 11:28 AM
Post: #1
VOA 2014-03-18






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From Washington, this is VOA news.

Russian President Putin recognizes Crimea’s sovereignty. U.S. and EU impose sanctions. Search area of Malaysian airliner widens. I’m Ray Kouguell, reporting from Washington.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin signed a decree recognizing the Ukrainian region of Crimea as a sovereign and independent country. Mr. Putin’s action Monday comes one day after a referendum in Crimea resulted in what Russian officials said was a 97% vote for declaring Crimea independent from Ukraine. Senior White House officials say they have concrete evidence that some ballots in the Crimea referendum were pre-marked when they arrived in cities before the vote. President Obama pledges his unwavering support for Ukraine.

And the White House declared a freeze on assets of 7 Russian officials and 4 Ukrainians linked to the political push for Crimea’s independence from Ukraine and possible annexation by Russia. The Obama administration announced the sanctions Monday following the European Union which designated 21 officials from Russian and Ukraine for travel bans and trade sanctions. President Obama says there is still a way out of this and for Russia’s leaders. “I believe there is still a path to resolve this situation diplomatically in a way that addresses the interests of both Russia and Ukraine, that includes Russia pulling its forces in Crimea back to their bases supporting the deployment of additional international monitors in Ukraine and engaging in dialogue with the Ukrainian government which indicates its openness to pursuing constitutional reform as they move forward towards elections this spring. But throughout this process, we are gonna stand firm in our unwavering support for Ukraine.” European Union foreign ministers adopted sanctions against 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials to punish them and their involvement in the referendum both in Crimea and Russia. VOA’s Al Pessin reports.

Officials say the top leaders of the 28 EU nations could adopt more sanctions at a summit later this week, particularly a fresher move to annex Crimea. For now, though, the European sanctions are lighter than the steps of the United States announced that about the same time Monday. European Union Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton defended the decision. “I don’t believe this has anything to do with soft or hard approaches. We take our decisions based on the best information and the work that we’ve done to establish what we believe is the right approach for the Europe Union.” Al Pessin, VOA news, London.

Malaysia says the search for missing passenger jet is under way along both in north and south of Qatar where is believed to have been deliberately diverted. Malaysia’s Defense Minister says 26 countries are involved in the search in water and on land in 11 countries. The search spans tens of billions of square kilometers. About two thirds of 239 aboard the missing Boeing 777 were Chinese nationals and with the expansion of the search effort, Beijing’s Foreign Ministry leveled a new attack on Malaysia’s openness in handling the investigation.

The Libyan government thanked the United States for a navy operation that stopped an oil tanker from exporting illicitly obtained crude oil. The U.S. Defense Department says the navy seals took control of the tanker while it was in international waters near Cyprus. U.S. sailors are taking the ship back to Libya. The tanker called the Morning Glory loaded the oil in the Libyan port of As-Sidra which is controlled by a rebel militia that is seeking more autonomy for eastern Libya.

President Obama is urging his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas to make tough decisions and take risks for peace with Israel. The two met at the White House Monday to discuss the stalled Middle East peace process. President Obama also pressed for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to go ahead with the scheduled release of a final group of Palestinian prisoners by the end of this month.

Lebanon sent commandos to the Syrian border Monday as Syrian rebels continued to flee into the Lebanese Bekaa Valley after the fall of their stronghold to President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. Two rockets struck the mainly Shi’ite Lebanese town of al-Labwa and security forces blew up a suspected car bomb as they struggled to contain sectarian violence fueled by a Syrian army offensive across the frontier.

And a Swedish Research Institute says India, the world’s largest arms importer, more than double its weapon purchases over the past 5 years. The report says Indian arms purchases now make up 14% of the global total.

I’m Ray Kougell, VOA new, more on the internet at voanews.com.
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