TIME Ukraine

Exclusive: Ukraine’s President Seeks ‘Understanding’ With Russia

Merkel Meets With New Ukrainian President Poroshenko
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko Carsten Koall—Getty Images

In his first interview as President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko tells TIME that he has no choice but to keep Russia at the negotiating table, as no country is prepared to guarantee his country's security from further attack

Ukraine’s new President Petro Poroshenko wants to see Russia punished for what he calls the “tragedy” that befell his country this year. But even as Russia has annexed one region of Ukraine and encouraged a violent rebellion in two others, Ukraine does not have the option of breaking off ties with the Kremlin, Poroshenko told TIME in his first interview since taking office. His government has no choice but to seek “an understanding” with Russia, he says, even if for no other reason than the hard reality of Ukraine’s geography.

“Maybe some Ukrainians would like to have Sweden or Canada for a neighbor, but we have Russia,” he said on Monday inside the Presidential Administration Building in Kiev, fidgeting with a set of rosary beads throughout the interview. “So we can’t talk about a firm sense of security without a dialogue and an understanding with Russia.” That is why Poroshenko spent the first full day of his tenure on Sunday in marathon talks with the Russian ambassador to Ukraine, Mikhail Zurabov. Their positions remain miles apart, at best leaving Poroshenko room for “cautious optimism” for restoring civil relations with Russia, he said.

But whatever progress they will make toward a cease-fire between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian rebels in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, Poroshenko has no intention of making nice with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “To be honest, I’m not very interested in what Citizen Putin thinks of my state,” he said. If the Russian leader doubts Ukraine’s right to exist within its current borders, the best way to convince him otherwise is to build a powerful army and a thriving economy, Poroshenko said. “No one would allow himself to doubt the existence of small countries like Singapore,” the Ukrainian President said, “because when a country is strong, effective, comfortable, monolithic, such doubts would never enter anyone’s minds.”

Achieving that will require support from the West, he told TIME, not least of all the kind of military aid that he has been requesting. “We’re talking about assistance that will be able to stop this aggression” from Russia, he said of his discussions last week and this weekend with U.S. and European leaders. “The help can take all kinds of forms, from intelligence to military technology, from blocking our airspace to enforcing a maritime blockade” in case of attack.

Poroshenko said he discussed these kinds of support last week with U.S. President Barack Obama, and brought it up again with Vice President Joe Biden, who attended Poroshenko’s inauguration on Saturday. But no Western nation has agreed to provide any security guarantees to Ukraine, nor have they made any firm pledges to renew the so-called Budapest Memorandum, the 1994 agreement between the U.S., Russia and the U.K. that was supposed to guarantee Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

With the annexation of Crimea in March, Russia violated that agreement, and Poroshenko has since become convinced that even the U.N. Security Council is no longer capable of preventing conflict between major powers. “When one of the veto-holding members of the U.N. Security Council has in effect become an aggressor, that shows that the old system isn’t working,” he said. This argument came up in his talks with Western leaders last weekend in France, and he said they agreed “without question” about the need for the “global security architecture” to be revised. “The struggle for Crimea is a struggle to prevent such precedents from repeating themselves in the future,” he said. “We can’t allow unpunished aggression.”

But punishing Russia is not an option for Poroshenko at this point. The best he can do is to build a military that can prevent a future Russian attack and, at the same time, stay at the negotiating table with the country he calls an aggressor. His goals are modest. Apart from stopping the bloodshed in eastern Ukraine, he wants Russia to offer a new “model of behavior, a model of guarantees” that would restore a sense of stability. So far, he doesn’t have anything close.

TIME World Cup

Brazil Prepares for the World Cup with Mixed Emotions

An activist holds a protest poster in front of the municipal stadium prior to a training session by Japan's national soccer in Sorocaba
An activist holds a protest poster in front of the municipal stadium prior to a training session by Japan's national soccer in the town of Sorocaba, June 8, 2014. Maxim Shemetov—Reuters

Many in the soccer-mad nation are angry at the cost and mismanagement of preparations for the tournament

When Brazil kicks off against Croatia on Thursday in the first game of the 2014 World Cup, Brazilians will celebrate the return of soccer’s premier tournament for the first time since 1950 to the country that most of the world sees as the true home of soccer. But it will likely be a bittersweet celebration, marred by anger as much as by the inevitable partying. That’s because the run-up to the World Cup has, in many respects, been an $11 billion showcase for the deficiencies of a nation that can seem so confident and yet still finding its feet as a major economic and political power.

Many of the stadiums built or renovated for the tournament are only just ready after embarrassing delays, airport buildings will remain unfinished, and some infrastructure projects have not even started. Brazilians are furious about the public money being spent when many Brazilians remain living in poverty and when many basic government services are crying out for investment. A poll published on June 2 revealed that only a slender majority of Brazilians remain in favor of the World Cup – 51% – compared with 42% who are against it.

“For the first time in my life there is no euphoria in the air at the prospect of a World Cup,” says Milton Hatoum, aged 61, who is one of Brazil’s best known novelists.

Brazilians are also depressed by the incompetence, corruption and greed of those in charge. About two million people took part in protests against the World Cup last year, and more demonstrations are planned once the games are underway.

The poll numbers suggest that the Brazilian government and Brazil’s soccer authorities have made a mess of an event that they hoped would give the country a huge boost. It is particularly embarrassing since the sport remains its most important symbol of national identity. “São Paulo feels quiet. Only a few streets are painted with murals. I’m not seeing a party atmosphere,” says Hatoum of his home city, which is hosting the opening game on Thursday.

But some observers of the role soccer plays in Brazil believe that the lack of enthusiasm, and even outright hostility to the World Cup this year will give way to Brazil’s outsized passion for soccer as soon as the tournament begins. “There’s no way that the World Cup will fail to take off,” wrote Tostão, a veteran of Brazil’s 1970 World Cup-winning side, in his column in the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper last week. “There is an avalanche of adverts and news stories, thousands of people want to make money from it, there is a huge nationalistic sentiment, the feeling that we need to party in the streets has surged in the last few days and – most importantly – the national team is playing well and its star forward player [Neymar] is magisterial.”

Some Brazilians believe that for all the anger at the way the World Cup there are signs that fans will be swept up by the pure joy of the games. Last year at the Confederations Cup – which marked the start of the anti-World Cup protests – the crowd sang the Brazilian national anthem so loudly and determinedly that they broke with protocol and kept on singing after the recorded music had stopped. The anger at the authorities was channeled into a rousing and patriotic wall of sound.

And then there’s the Neymar factor. For the first time since the golden era of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaká ended almost a decade ago, Brazil once again has a contender for the best player in the world. Neymar is loved not only because he plays well, but also because he plays in a very Brazilian way. His game is based around improvisation, teasing dribbles and sublime ball skills – what Brazilians call “futebol-arte”, or artistic soccer. Neymar’s charisma on the pitch makes Brazilians proud not just of him, but of themselves.

“Neymar is not quite at level of [Lionel] Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo but he has a bigger repertory of beautiful plays, with more special tricks. He plays like a child at an informal kickabout game, always up for having fun and dribbling past whoever gets in his way,” wrote Tostão.

So long as Neymar is on form, Brazilian fans believe their team can win the World Cup for the sixth time. If they do, the tournament will be remembered as an $11 billion showcase for Brazil’s sporting supremacy rather than as the public relations disaster it has been so far.

A win may alleviate public anger at the mismanagement of the event, but this is likely only to be temporary since the preparations for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics are already beset with similar problems.“Of course Brazilians will support their team, and if they are champions there will be huge celebrations. But the joy at the football does not exclude the anger. What’s different about this World Cup is that for the first time Brazilians have realized that there are some things that are more important than football,” says Hatoum.

Brazil may not win, of course. Failure to secure the trophy would be a huge disappointment, but it would not be a disaster on the scale of what happened the last time Brazil hosted the World Cup. In 1950 Brazil lost the final game against Uruguay, a result that is widely considered the greatest tragedy in contemporary Brazilian history. The trauma reinforced a sense of failure and insecurity that scarred the national psyche for the next decades – even once it had won the tournament in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

But contemporary Brazil is a very different place from the Brazil of 1950. The country is now not only known for soccer. It is the world’s seventh biggest economy, an agricultural superpower, and it has huge untapped resources of oil and gas. Brazilian sportsmen have won tennis grand slams, motor racing championships and track-and-field world records.

Winning the World Cup would be cause for the world’s biggest street party. But unlike in 1950, a loss would not leave such a huge scar. Even as they prepare to host the world’s greatest soccer tournament, Brazilians know that there is a lot more to their country than the beautiful game.

Bellos is the author of Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life

TIME Israel

Now You Can Go to Burning Man After Birthright

The arts and music festival came to Israel for the first time last week, with 3,000 revelers descending on the Negev desert

TIME Pakistan

Karachi Airport Witness Describes ‘Pure Chaos’ of Attacks

PAKISTAN-UNREST-KARACHI-AIRPORT
Smoke rises after militants launched an early morning assault at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan on June 9, 2014. Rizwan Tabassum—AFP/Getty Images

Kamal Faridi, a 29-year-old entrepreneur from Karachi, told TIME what it was like to be caught up in the Taliban assault that left at least 23 dead

Taliban gunmen besieged Karachi airport on Sunday, killing at least 23 people. Kamal Faridi, a 29-year-old Information Technology entrepreneur based in Karachi, was traveling to Germany via Dubai on Sunday night and got caught in the melee.

Faridi had checked in for his Emirates flight around 11pm on Sunday, and was waiting in the lounge for the boarding announcement. “Suddenly we heard some gun shots, which we thought were fireworks,” Faridi told TIME. “Then we saw the security forces taking position outside the lounge.”

“They asked us to lie down on the ground and hide ourselves against the furniture as the lounge was covered in glass. In another 10-15 minutes more security personnel had arrived and huddled us to another room.”

“Initially there was pure chaos as we didn’t know what was happening and everyone thought they were going to die. Within ten minutes we were told of the terrorist attack.”

The commandos told Faridi and his fellow travelers that some unidentified gunmen had taken control of the old terminal – which is more like an administrative wing and only caters to VIP and Hajj flights – which lies 2-3 kilometers away from where Faridi was waiting to board his flight. The old terminal had no passenger flights, fortunately.

Faridi said a “resigned, even fearful calm” fell upon the room where they were waiting. “Apart from the whimpers of children, it was quiet, only to be broken by a loud cheer of ‘Allahu Akbar’ when we heard on the security force wireless that a few of the terrorists had been shot down.”

“We were instructed not to receive calls or take pictures,” he said. “We lay crouching on the ground for almost 4-5 hours, by which time the security forces had announced thrice that they would evacuate us, but weren’t able to.”

“Crouching on the ground, shutting my ears and sometimes eyes tightly, I could still see the flashes of gun shots. They would stop for a second and it would all be a deathly quiet before it would start again in an interminable shower.”

Around 3.30am one of the officers came to evacuate Faridi and his co-travelers. Shaken, Faridi went straight home.

“In Pakistan it’s almost a war situation. Everyone knows anything can happen any moment and we are prepared for any eventuality,” he said. “But it’s different when you find yourself in the middle of a terror attack. The five-hour ordeal was a trauma for me. If I close my eyes I can still hear the shots ringing out and I jump in my mind.”

TIME World

Love Can Make a Bridge Collapse

'Love padlocks' attached to a fence of the Pont des Arts bridge over the Seine river in Paris on June 9, 2014.
'Love padlocks' attached to a fence of the Pont des Arts bridge over the Seine river in Paris on June 9, 2014. Jacques Demarthon—AFP/Getty Images

More like a bridge railing, but still

A two-meter segment of the iconic Pont des Arts bridge in Paris was overcome with the weight of love and partially collapsed Sunday night.

The bridge has become famous for “love locks,” a tradition in which people fasten a lock to the bridge and then throw the key into the river as a symbol of eternal love and ironclad commitment. But the locks became too heavy and a portion of the bridge railing buckled under the pressure of so many romantic expectations, France 24 reports.

A part of the bridge collapsed last summer under the weight of the locks, causing many to say the locks pose a safety threat to the thousands of people who walk over the bridge every day or ride under it on ferries. Some are even calling for all the locks to be removed, which means everybody who ever attached a lock to the bridge will instantly break up and fall out of love.

Maybe the bridge just wanted something a little more causal.

TIME Aviation

Malaysia Has Spent $8.6 Million on Missing Plane Search

Costs expected to rise as the search area expands

Malaysia has spent $8.6 million so far on the massive international search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, officials said Monday, the first time they’ve cited a specific cost for the hunt.

That figure applies only to Malaysian agencies, Department of Civil Aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman told a news conference, and “we do not know how much other countries spent,” Reuters reports.

The search for the missing plane, which vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board, has long since become the most expensive and longest in modern commercial aviation history. And costs are expected to rise after Australian officials said last month that the missing aircraft was not in the area of the Indian Ocean where they had been searching based on ping sounds thought to be from the plane’s black box. The expanded search area includes wide swaths of the Indian Ocean off Australia, and Azharuddin said the new search area “will not be very far away from where the search is now.”

Malaysian officials are scheduled to visit Australia on Tuesday to discuss the latest satellite analysis of the new search area. They’re also expected to visit China, home to two-thirds of the plane’s passengers, on Thursday.

[Reuters]

TIME China

China Says Vietnamese Vessels Rammed Its Boats ‘1,416 Times’

Tension Rises In Disputed Area of South China Sea
A Chinese coast guard ship navigates around Chinese drilling equipment located in waters off the disputed Paracel Islands on May 28, 2014. The Asahi Shimbun

It's the latest in the war of words between the two countries

China’s Foreign Ministry has accused Vietnam of ramming into its ships more than 1,400 times near a highly controversial Chinese oil rig, according to a statement issued on Sunday night.

Vietnam, as well as other Southeast Asian nations, has been involved in a tense dispute with China over territorial claims in the South China Sea.

“As of 5 p.m. on 7 June, there were as many as 63 Vietnamese vessels in the area at the peak, attempting to break through China’s cordon and ramming the Chinese government ships for a total of 1,416 times,” said Chinese officials.

Beijing’s claim comes two days after Vietnam’s state television aired a video that appeared to show a Chinese ship chasing a small Vietnamese boat — later sinking it.

Tension over China’s drilling operations near the disputed Paracel Islands escalated into anti-China riots in Vietnam in May. Up to four Chinese citizens were killed.

[BBC]

TIME Pakistan

The Attack on Karachi Airport Shows That Nowhere in Pakistan is Safe

Smoke billows from Jinnah International Airport in Karachi
Smoke billows from Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on June 9, 2014. Athar Hussain— Reuters

The Pakistan Taliban's strike at the heart of the country’s commercial capital is a brazen demonstration of its powerful reach

Insurgent violence exploded in Karachi again on Sunday. Armed militants rocked Pakistan’s largest city in an attack that was as gruesome as it was symbolic as terrorists proved their ability to penetrate deep into the country’s commercial nerve center, far from their tribal strongholds.

At least 28 people were killed during the fighting at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport after militants disguised as policemen stormed one of the facility’s terminals.

“The ghastly attack on Karachi airport is symbolic, for it aimed to convey a message to the Pakistani state as it plans to fight the Pakistani Taliban,” Raza Rumi, a U.S.-based Pakistan analyst and senior fellow at Jinnah Institute, told TIME. “The choice of Karachi is also strategic as the act of terror gained global attention.”

Conflicting reports swirled early on Monday as authorities claimed to have killed at least 10 militants in the retaking of the hijacked terminal, while accounts of fresh gunfire continued to raise doubts over whether all the terrorists had been cleared from the besieged building.

Pakistani officials identified the militants as foreigners, with reports surfacing that the gunmen were ethnic Uzbeks or Chechens. No independent confirmation of the militants’ nationalities has been confirmed.

The Pakistsani Taliban, or Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, took little time in taking credit for the assault.

“It is a message to the Pakistan government that we are still alive to react over the killings of innocent people in bomb attacks on their villages,” Shahidullah Shahid, a Taliban spokesman, told Reuters.

Shahid also claimed the assault was payback for the killing of the group’s former leader Hakimullah Mehsud, according to the Pakistan affiliate outlet of Newsweek. Mehsud was killed during a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal areas last November.

“[The] Pakistani Taliban are now far more dangerous, lethal and well equipped than the Afghan Taliban,” said Hassan Abbas, a senior advisor at the Asia Society and author of The Taliban Revival.

“[The airport attack] shows their depth and networking in Karachi and even penetration in the Karachi airport. They entered from the gate which is used by top government and foreign dignitaries — supposedly the most secure.”

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government rolled out a preliminary peace process earlier this year to kickstart talks with the rebel outfit, aimed at bringing an end to seven years of insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives.

However, the process has been continually bucked by ongoing attacks from the group, along with the military’s recent targeting of insurgent strongholds in Pakistan’s federally administered Tribal Areas.

In late May, the Pakistani military ordered a series of airstrikes targeting Taliban hideouts in Northern Waziristan, killing 30 militants. On Monday, the Taliban’s spokesperson rejected Islamabad ’s peace talks as a “tool of war.”

— With reporting by Nilanjana Bhowmick / New Delhi

TIME Asia

24 Indian Students Swept Into River and Feared Drowned

India Students Drowning
College staff working at VNR Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology gather on campus on the outskirts of Hyderabad, India, on June 9, 2014 Mahesh Kumar —AP

A sudden release of water from a dam in northern India’s Himachal Pradesh is being blamed for the tragedy

A group of 24 engineering students were swept into a surging river in northern India’s Himachal Pradesh on Sunday and are feared drowned.

The students, from VNR Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology in the southern city of Hyderabad, were on a 10-day field trip near the hill town of Manali. They had stopped to take pictures by the bank of Beas River on Sunday evening when a sudden gush of water from the Larji hydropower-station dam washed them into the turbulent river.

A surviving student named Sumiran told the Indian Express newspaper that the students “fell flat and disappeared under the waves.”

Search teams scoured the river on Monday for signs of the missing students but recovered only four bodies. Regional police chief Anurag Sharma told the Associated Press that officials feared “the chances of finding survivors are slim.”

The chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, Virbhadra Singh, blamed the accident on the construction of the dam, ordering that the engineer in charge be suspended until further investigation.

Local media reported that distraught citizens and tourists barricaded a nearby highway in protest at the failure of local authorities to give warning about the release of water from the dam.

TIME India

In India, Publishers Are Dumping Books Instead of Defending Them

INDIA-BUSINESS
An Indian book vendor arranges items at his shop in New Delhi's Old Quarter on Jan. 30, 2013. AFP—AFP/Getty Images

Cowed by pressure groups, Indian publishers are withdrawing scholarly titles deemed offensive to hard-line Hindus instead of defending them in court

Bucking the global decline in revenues, the business of books in India is actually expanding — and at an exponential rate — buoyed by a massive English-speaking market and a growing, educated middle-class hungry for, and able to afford, written work of every genre and format.

But instead of becoming more open, publishing in India these days — or at least scholarly publishing — operates in an anxious climate. Beset by vexatious legal notices, mostly from hard-line Hindu organizations offended by the portrayal of Hinduism in academic works, more and more publishers are practicing a form of self-censorship by dumping titles from their catalogs rather than going to the expense of defending them in court. The situation is grave enough that authors and academics voice fears for the future of political debate in the country. Since January, more than half a dozen highly acclaimed books have been withdrawn or placed on hold. Many more withdrawals may be in the pipeline, insiders say.

“What is the point of printing heaps of books when freedom of speech is not respected?” asks British author William Dalrymple, whose 2009 work Nine Lives: in Search of the Sacred in Modern India was a masterful survey of Indians and religious thought.

The latest casualty is a book titled Communalism and Sexual Violence: Ahmedabad Since 1969 by Megha Kumar, a young scholar at Oxford. Worryingly, no suit has been filed against the book itself, which is a rigorous look at the role of rape during sectarian troubles in the largest city of Gujarat, newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state. Instead, its publisher, the academic press Orient Blackswan, withdrew it from the market because a legal notice it received, concerning a textbook published a decade ago, caused it to review the rest of its catalog, including Kumar’s book.

That notice, from Dinanath Batra, convener of the Hindu group Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti, claimed that the textbook From Plassey to Partition: A History of Modern India, by Sekhar Bandyopadhyay, had portrayed another Hindu-nationalist organization in a bad light. Fearing that Communalism and Sexual Violence would attract similar legal action if it remained on sale, and concerned that its staff might suffer violent reprisals, Orient Blackswan told Kumar that her book would be set aside.

“What is troubling is that the publisher was not served a notice against Dr. Kumar’s book. The publisher is withdrawing books as a precautionary measure,” Dalrymple says.

Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti is the same group that came to an out-of-court settlement with Penguin India in February to withdraw from sale University of Chicago professor Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: An Alternative History. Publisher Penguin pulped all copies of the book in India, sparking global outrage from free-speech activists. (In April, Aleph Book Co. agreed that it would not reprint another of Doniger’s books, On Hinduism, until Batra’s objections to it were entertained by an independent panel of scholars. The book is currently unavailable.)

Batra has been filing cases under Section 153A and Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, which deal with hate speech. But the publishers have nothing to worry about, says Lawrence Liang of the Alternative Law Forum, who has studied issues around free speech for the past 15 years. “There is nothing that can go against a publisher who decides to take on a legal battle on free speech. Fought correctly, they are bound to win,” says Liang. However, “they are just not willing to fight a legal battle fearing the rising economic costs involved in it. They find it cheaper to withdraw books.”

Many blame Penguin India for having set a precedent by conceding to the demands of Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti a few months ago. “It was an extremely shortsighted decision by Penguin — they saved a few dollars for the company at the cost of a free society for all,” says Dalrymple.

After Penguin withdrew Doniger’s book, two other Penguin authors, Siddharth Varadarajan and Jyotirmaya Sharma, announced their decision to withdraw their books in protest. Varadarajan will instead self-publish his book on the 2002 Gujarat riots.

“Such a scenario raises questions of academic living and working in India,” says Kumar. “What does this mean for the future of fearless debates and critical thinking in the country?”

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