TIME Italy

Putin Seeks Deal on Ukraine

Europe Asia Summit
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, center, Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko meet on the sidelines of the ASEM summit of European and Asian leaders in Milan on Oct. 17, 2014 Daniel Dal Zennaro—AP

Leaders emphasized the need to separate the warring sides in eastern Ukraine and talked about monitoring the cease-fire

(MILAN) — Russian leader Vladimir Putin is meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and key Western leaders in an attempt to negotiate a full end to hostilities in Ukraine that could ease sanctions against Russia.

Putin met separately overnight with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has insisted that Russia fully respect a Ukraine cease-fire deal signed last month that has reduced hostilities but not stopped all fighting.

The Kremlin, in a readout on the nearly 2½-hour meeting, said the leaders emphasized the need to separate the warring sides in eastern Ukraine and talked about monitoring the cease-fire. They continued to disagree on the roots of the conflict.

The meetings Friday are on the sidelines of an ASEM summit of more than 50 Asian and European leaders in the Italian city of Milan.

TIME Hong Kong

Hong Kong Braced for More Clashes as Protesters Threaten to Recapture Site

A pro-democracy protester cries in front of a line of policemen on a blocked road, after police removed barricades at Mongkok shopping district in Hong Kong October 17, 2014. Tyrone Siu—Reuters

Battle lines are hardening in an increasingly divided city

Online calls have been issued for barriers to be rebuilt at one of Hong Kong’s main democracy protest sites.

Hundreds of Hong Kong police officers in riot gear raided the site at Mong Kok early Friday morning, clearing barricades and tents, but failing to shift protesters, many of whom refuse to leave the area they have inhabited for the past 18 days.

They continue to block southbound traffic on Nathan Road—the densely populated Kowloon peninsula’s main artery.

Users of a massively popular local Internet forum, the Hong Kong Golden forum, defiantly called for barriers to be rebuilt in Mong Kok on Friday night.

Known as “golden jai” (golden boys), the forum users comprise the more radical arm of the city’s democracy movement, and were believed to be responsible for an attempt to reoccupy a major thoroughfare in the government and financial district on Hong Kong Island on Tuesday.

The ensuing melee on Lung Wo Road became one of the most vicious set pieces of the three-week long protests, with 45 people arrested, and a prominent political activist savagely assaulted by police officers unaware that a television news crew was filming every blow.

Allegations of police brutality and images of wounded protesters have in recent days reignited public support for the movement, which is demanding that the powerful head of the city’s government, known as the Chief Executive, be directly elected from a list of candidates freely put forward by the city’s 3.5 million voters.

The central government in Beijing is insisting that Hong Kong’s leader must be chosen from a small field of candidates screened by a pro-establishment electoral committee.

In a bid to break the deadlock, embattled Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said Thursday he was willing to push ahead with “dialog” with the protesters alongside the restoration of “order in Hong Kong, according to the laws of Hong Kong, as quickly as we can.”

The government scrapped talks with student leaders just a week ago, claiming that dialog was “impossible.”

Its reluctant resumption of negotiations with the same cocksure youths—clad in jeans and t-shirts scrawled with political slogans—is a reflection of the growing impact of the three-week-long protest, which is now the most significant political movement in China since the 1989 Tiananmen occupation in Beijing.

Alex Chow Yong-kang, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, welcomed the government’s announcement of renewed talks, but told the South China Morning Post that “if [Leung] is offering to talk but at the same time ordering police to clear the scene violently, the people will know how sincere he is.”

The Chief Executive has drawn scorn for his insistence that open nomination of candidates for the 2017 election is not on the table.

“This shows that the Chief Executive doesn’t actually want to discuss anything,” said Kee Ma, a 60-year-old retired pharmacist camping out at the main protest site in Admiralty.

Other protesters are still upset about the heavy-handed police action in the last few days.

“The Chief Executive needs to apologize for police brutality,” said Mars Leung, 20, who, like many at the Admiralty camp, quit his job in order to participate in the protests full-time. “These statements just make people more angry.”

TIME Cambodia

Cambodian Tribunal Opens 1st Genocide Case

Khieu Samphan
Khieu Samphan, former Khmer Rouge head of state, sits in the court room during a hearing at the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal, in Phnom Penh on Oct. 17, 2014 Nhet Sok Heng—AP

An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died from starvation, exhaustion, disease and execution during the Khmer Rouge regime

(PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA) — A U.N.-backed Cambodian tribunal has begun hearing the first genocide case against the country’s brutal 1970s Khmer Rouge regime.

Khieu Samphan, the regime’s head of state, and Nuon Chea, right-hand man to the goup’s late leader, Pol Pot, have already received life sentences in August after being found guilty of charges including crimes against humanity.

They are now facing separate charges of genocide related mostly to the group’s forced movement of millions of people to the countryside when it took power in 1975. The radical policies are blamed for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians from starvation, exhaustion, disease and execution.

Both men have appealed their convictions.

On Friday, the prosecution began opening arguments in the genocide trial.

TIME India

India Successfully Tests Its First Nuclear-Capable Cruise Missile

The weapon is called Nirbhay, which means fearless

India’s first indigenously developed nuclear-capable cruise missile was successfully test-fired on Friday at the Integrated Missile Test Range in Chandipur, Odisha.

The Nirbhay, which means fearless in Hindi, has been dubbed “India’s answer to America’s Tomahawk” and can strike targets more than 400 miles away, according to NDTV.

Although India already had tactical and ballistic missiles in its military arsenal, including the 180-mile BrahMos cruise missile that it developed jointly with Russia, the new weapon is a significant step forward in terms of range and capability.

Nirbhay’s ability to fly at tree level makes it difficult to detect by radar, and it can also hover near targets and strike from any direction.

An unnamed official said that the missile was fired just after 10 a.m. local time from a mobile launcher, according to the Times of India.

“Flight details will be available after data retrieved from radars and telemetry points, monitoring the trajectories, are analysed,” the official said.

This was Nirbhay’s second planned test, after an initial one slated for March 2013 had to be aborted when the projectile deviated from its intended course.

TIME brazil

Brazilian Man Confesses to 39 Murders

BRAZIL-CRIME-SERIAL KILLER-ARREST
Alleged serial killer Tiago Gomes da Rocha, center, suspected of killing 39 people, is escorted by police officers at the Department of Security, a day after his arrest, in Goiania, state of Goias, Brazil, on Oct. 16, 2014. Evaristo Sa—AFP/Getty Images

“We have been shocked by his coldness,” said a police official

A 26-year-old Brazilian man who allegedly killed at least 39 people in the span of three years has been taken into custody by local authorities.

Security guard Thiago Henrique Gomes da Rocha confessed to the murders after being arrested in the central city of Goiania, the BBC reports.

“We have been shocked by his coldness,” a police official who witnessed his interrogation told Brazilian television, saying that Gomes da Rocha referred to his victims by numbers one to 39.

He reportedly targeted women, homeless people and homosexuals, going up to his victims on a motorcycle with his face covered. He would then shoot them and leave without taking any of their possessions, although police said he would often demand valuables.

Other than the killings, he is also suspected of carrying out over 90 robberies.

[BBC]

Read next: Brazil Announces First Suspected Ebola Case

TIME

Pictures of the Week: Oct. 10 – Oct. 17

From Malala Yousafzai winning a Nobel Peace Prize and the return of Kim Jong Un to Ebola diagnoses in Dallas and Angelina Jolie becoming a Dame, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

Read next: The Most Beautiful Wildfire Photos You’ll Ever See

TIME Nigeria

Why the Girls Kidnapped by Boko Haram Still Aren’t Home

Experts say the plight of the girls are "symbolic" of the larger problems in Nigeria's fight against the militant group

A lot has happened since April 14th. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down in Ukraine; the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) seized vast swathes of Iraq; and Ebola has killed thousands in Africa, and spread to at least two other continents. In our hyper-speedy news cycle, six months passes in a blink of an eye. But for the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants when they struck the northeastern Nigerian village of Chibok in April, it probably feels like a lifetime. The militants abducted 276 girls; six months on, more than 200 remain in captivity.

Why haven’t they been rescued yet? Largely, observers say, because of Nigeria’s failure to effectively counter Boko Haram, which has claimed thousands of lives over the years in its violent campaign to carve out a hardline religious state in the north of the country. “The problem is that the girls are symbolic,” says Adotei Akwei, managing director for advocacy for Amnesty International USA. “They’re part of a larger human rights catastrophe, a bad situation in Nigeria.”

“Nigeria’s military strategy isn’t working well,” he continues. “We clearly have not been able to get the girls back, or to change the mindset or approach of the Nigerian government in terms of how it responds to Boko Haram or how it protects its citizens”

Carl LeVan, a professor at American University in Washington D.C. who writes about Nigeria, adds that many civilians consider the Nigerian military almost as bad as Boko Haram when it comes to human rights violations, even as the rebels continue their reign of terror in the north.

Akwei says the problems with the Nigerian military also hinder international efforts to lend a hand. “The Nigerian military has got such a bad reputation that even the US military is concerned about how much they can cooperate because of the kind of abuses we’ve documented,” he explains. “There’s no transparency, no accountability whatsoever.”

The military has an embarrassing track record when it comes to fighting the militant group. Earlier this year, they claimed to have rescued the girls the day after the abduction, but then had to retract that claim. In late May, they released a statement saying they knew where the girls were being held, but wouldn’t use force to rescue them. And in a tragic incident early last month, several Nigerian troops were killed by their own airstrikes aimed at Boko Haram.

U.S. planes spotted large groups of girls in early August that might have been the kidnapped students. Time, however, continues to drag on without a rescue—and, says Jennifer Cook, the director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the longer they stay in captivity, the harder it becomes to bring back the missing girls.

“With hostage situations with this many people, to bring one set back without endangering another set is very difficult,” says Cooke. “In some cases, there’s a pretty good idea of where they are, but extricating them from a group of armed criminals who have so little respect for life is a difficult negotiation process. And the longer they’re there, the greater likelihood they become dispersed, and the more difficult they are to track down.”

According to Cooke, the big-picture strategy for fighting the insurgency would involve capturing key Boko Haram leaders and cutting off funding sources to weaken the militant group. But it’s also important for the government to win the support of communities in that part of the country, where many feel both abandoned by the administration and terrorized by Boko Haram.

“A lot of civilians are feeling pinched between the terror of Boko Haram and the misbehaviors of the Nigerian military,” says LeVan, whose book on Nigeria, Dictators and Democracy in African Development, is set to be released later this month. “They said ‘we’re trapped, we’re fleeing Boko Haram but we also don’t have anywhere to go because our military is suspicious of us.'”

Winning the hearts of northern Nigerians is crucial to stopping the violence and finding the girls, but some communities are reluctant to support the government for fear of violent reprisals from Boko Haram, and because they don’t trust the government to protect them. Cooke says that “fundamental distrust” in the north is one of the government’s biggest impediments to finding the girls, because it makes it much more difficult to get accurate information. In the meantime, the girls are no better off. “These girls are being held under absolutely horrific circumstances, subjected to sexual violence and rape, forced into servitude,” she said. “There are reports that some have become pregnant.”

If those reports are true—and there’s a good chance they are, based on Boko Haram’s history of impregnating abducted women—the pregnant girls could face even greater challenges down the road. Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe runs the Saint Monica Girls’ Tailoring Center in Uganda, where she helps girls who have been victims of sexual violence rebuild their lives with their children, who are often outcasts in their communities. “Because the situation they are taken in, I would not be surprised if a good number of them are pregnant,” she says. “Raising the child of a person who has been maltreating you is always [hard.] That is why there is violence and anger returned on these children. Because they give [the mother] that reminder of the pain they have gone through.”

Sister Rosemary says that if the girls are ever released, they may have trouble re-joining their families and communities. That’s why continuing their education will be crucial for helping them move forward.

“If we leave these kids and say, they cannot catch up, I think we just are going to destroy them more.”

But before anybody can worry about education and rehabilitation, the girls have to come home. “Our world must not forget these adolescent girls,” says Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Executive Director of UN Women and a United Nations Under-Secretary-General. “The world must come together and make every possible effort to rescue these girls and bring their captors to justice. We cannot and must not move on with this humanitarian tragedy still unresolved.”

TIME Syria

ISIS Retreats From Besieged Syrian City

Fire is seen after an US airstrike on ISIS positions in Kobani, Syria, on Oct. 15, 2014.
Fire is seen after an US airstrike on ISIS positions in Kobani, Syria, on Oct. 15, 2014. Ahmet Ozturk—Xinhua/SIPA

But Anwar Muslim, the head of Kobani's local government, tells TIME more than a thousand civilians are still trapped in the city center

The Syrian city of Kobani, just across the border from Turkey, breathed easier Thursday as U.S. coalition airstrikes helped dislodge jihadist fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) from several neighborhoods.

Speaking by phone from Kobani on Thursday, Anwar Muslim, the head of the local government, told TIME that the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Kurdish forces defending the enclave, were now in control of “65 to 70 percent” of the besieged city. In neighborhoods in the south and east, he said, ISIS fighters were in partial retreat. In the west, they remained about three miles away.

But he cautioned against premature optimism. ISIS had lost “many men,” he said, “but they keep sending car bombs, mortar shells, and yet more fighters into the area.”

He claimed there were “more than a thousand civilians” still trapped in the city center. With ISIS snipers and mortars targeting neighborhoods close to the border crossing with Turkey, “it’s too dangerous for the people to leave,” he said. “We are asking the U.S. and the U.N. to set up and operate a humanitarian corridor to Kobani.”

Turkish officials, however, insisted that only Kurdish and ISIS forces remained inside the city. “There are no civilians left in Kobani,” Bulent Arinc, the country’s deputy prime minister, told reporters on Wednesday. “All of them are in Turkey.”

The Kurdish forces were bolstered by heavy air assaults from U.S. jets. In a statement posted on its website, the U.S. Central Command said that American fighter jets had conducted 14 airstrikes around the city since Wednesday. The U.S. forces said they struck 19 ISIS buildings, two ISIS command posts, three ISIS fighting positions, three ISIS sniper positions, one ISIS staging location, and one ISIS heavy machine gun.

“We know we’ve killed several hundred of them,” Rear Admiral John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said Wednesday, referring to the ISIS fighters massed near Kobani. He noted, however, that the city “may very well still fall.”

“They are bombing the right targets,” Muslim said of the U.S. coalition. “At the beginning, ISIS had plenty of tanks and trucks, but that is no longer the case.” He declined to confirm, however, whether YPG forces were providing the U.S. and coalition partners with coordinates of jihadist positions around the city. “We are cooperating, and our actions have been complementary,” said Mr. Muslim. “There is contact.”

The YPG is widely believed to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which the U.S., the European Union, and Turkey all consider a terrorist group, making it difficult for the militia to open official channels with Washington.

With both sides exhausted by more than a month of clashes, desperation appears to be creeping in. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, Kurdish security forces have rounded up hundreds of people of fighting age in Kurdish strongholds east of Kobani over the past week, forcing them to join YPG ranks. The month-long siege has taken its toll on ISIS, too. The jihadists, said Muslim, have begun resorting to suicide attacks inside Kobani.

The role of U.S. and coalition forces in the battle for Kobani may now be more crucial than ever. Zuhal Ekmez, the co-mayor of Suruc, a Turkish town just a few miles from the Syrian border, said that it was only this week that the airstrikes had begun tilting the balance in the YPG’s favor. “Before, they weren’t effective,” she said. “They are now, but we need them to go on.”

On Thursday afternoon, following a morning of relative quiet broken only occasionally by the chatter of gunfire and the wail of a fighter jet, a series of loud explosions shook the air above Kobani. As columns of smoke grew from the ground, a small group of Syrian refugees began to gather in a field on the Turkish side of the border. Passing around a single pair of binoculars to better follow the fighting inside their hometown, they pointed to a hill to the east of Kobani, where ISIS fighters had earlier planted their black flag. The flag, they noted, was gone.

Read next: ISIS Retreating from Kobani, Says Kurdish Official

TIME energy

Low Oil Prices Raise the Risk of Recession in Russia

Russia oil
Russia will look to tap Arctic resources of oil and gas Photo by Dmitry Korotayev/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images

Oil prices dipped to around $92 per barrel in early October

This post originally appeared on OilPrice.com.

Falling oil prices are inflicting deeper economic pain on Russia’s economy, which is already reeling from EU and U.S. sanctions.

Russia is currently considering its budget for 2015-2017, and based on the numbers, the Kremlin is planning for leaner times. With oil revenue accounting for around half of the country’s budget, any dip in prices has a ripple effect.

And in recent years, Russia’s economy has become more dependent on oil to meet its budget commitments. Excluding oil revenue, Russia has run a budget deficit that hit 10.3 percent in 2013, the highest level in three years.

In other words, the government needs oil revenues to plug budget holes, and that need is growing.

Related: Will Ukraine Commit Economic Suicide?

Russia occupies a strong economic position when oil prices are high, but for every $1 decline in the price per barrel of oil, Russia loses $2.1 billion in revenue on an annualized basis. Slumping oil prices in recent months could see revenues to the state decline by $30 to $40 billion.

The Russian economy may only expand 0.4 percent this year, and just 1 percent in 2015. But even that meager growth rate is not a certainty. Russia is increasingly facing the possibility of recession, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists.

Oil prices dipped to around $92 per barrel in early October. While that won’t plunge Russia into an immediate economic crisis, the government needs oil prices to stay around $105 in order to balance the budget. Thus, if oil prices don’t rebound soon, problems will only grow worse for the Kremlin.

The upcoming budget plans for the possibility of persistent inflation, a weakening ruble, and the potential need for the state to dip into cash reserves in order to finance its budget. What is worse, even this negative outlook is based on highly optimistic assumptions – it assumes oil prices of around $100 per barrel.

“It is quite optimistic given where oil prices are at now and given how much the Russian budget depends on oil revenues,” Liza Ermolenko, an analyst at Capital Economics, told The Moscow Times. “For the next year, it’s more likely that the oil prices will be lower than what they are penciling in.”

Running a deficit will be tricky because western sanctions have restricted access to financial markets. Major Russian companies targeted by the U.S. and Europe are unable to take out long-term loans. As a result, they are turning to the Russian state for funds. That has worked so far, but a Bloomberg report outlines an emerging fight within the Russian elite over a dwindling pile of money.

The mid-September arrest of Vladimir Evtushenkov, the head of oil company OAO Bashneft, was a sign that the situation is starting to deteriorate. He is the richest Russian arrested since Mikhail Khodorkovsky was thrown in jail in 2005 and whose oil company, Yukos, was taken over by the state. Evtushenkov, an ally of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, is thought to have been arrested because of a growing rift in Russia’s elite that is at least partially due to the troubled economy.

Related: Europe Seeks To Undermine Russian Energy Influence

“This is creating a dire financial situation, particularly for state companies friendly to Putin, which are now vying for shrinking state resources,” Yevgeny Yasin, a former Russian economy minister, told Bloomberg. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his allies are hunting for more assets as the economy worsens, according to the same article.

Oil prices could remain low for a while. Reuters reports that the Russian central bank is beginning to plan for a disaster scenario in which oil prices drop to $60 per barrel. Such a scenario would precipitate a dramatic weakening of the ruble, forcing the central bank into action.

But there is no easy way out. The Russian economy is far too dependent on the global price of oil, a volatile benchmark largely out of the Kremlin’s control.

More Top reads From Oilprice.com:

TIME Crime

U.S. Marine Charged in Murder of Transgender Woman in Philippines

Philippine government now wants to take custody of the Marine, who has been identified as Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton

A U.S. Marine has been charged with murder in the killing of a Filipino transgender woman found strangled in a local hotel room last weekend.

A senior Philippine official said Wednesday that the Philippine government wants to take custody of the Marine, who has been identified as Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, and warned that the case could damage the military relationship between the two allies, according to MSN news.

Under a defense agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines, the Philippines can demand custody of a service member who has been involved in a crime. The joint defense pact has stoked tension between the two countries in the past, and the question of the U.S. Marine’s custody in this case may renew those tensions.

Pemberton is currently being held on the USS Peleliu warship in Subic Bay. The marines had been in the Philippines for an annual joint military exercise. All military personnel “still actively involved with the investigation” remain on board the ship, according to a press statement from the U.S. Marine Corps.

Three other marines who are considered possible witnesses are also being held, according to previous news reports. The other four ships previously held at port in Subic Bay during the investigation have been cleared to depart, the Marine Corps announced on Wednesday.

The killing has also ignited emotions in the transgender community in the Philippines, who are calling the death of Jennifer Laude, who was found dead with her head in a toilet bowl, a hate crime. An autopsy report in the case has shown the cause of death as “asphyxia by drowning.”

“We will not accept anything less than justice,” the victim’s sister Marilou Laude said to CNN.

[MSN]

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