TIME Ukraine

Ukrainian Base in Crimea Resists Russian Raid

Russian troops without insignia in Perevalnoye, on March 2, 2014. Yuri Kozyrev—NOOR for TIME

Russian troops seized part of a base in Crimea, but they withdrew after negotiations for the entire base's surrender had failed

Updated: 5:04 p.m.

Russian troops attempted to take a Ukrainian military base by storm on the Crimean peninsula soon after dark on Friday, ramming the gates with a truck and rushing inside. Within two hours, the Russian forces managed to seize part of the Ukrainian air force base at the edge of Sevastopol, the city that also houses Russia’s Black Sea naval fleet. But after failed negotiations for the surrender of the entire base, the Russian troops pulled back before midnight.

“The base is now back in full control of the Ukrainian armed forces,” said a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, asking to remain anonymous. Armed pro-Russian paramilitaries in civilian clothing were still in the area, the spokesman said, but the two Russian military trucks that had rammed the gate of the A-2355 base outside Sevastopol were gone, as were the several dozen Russian troops involved. “Now only the radicals are left,” he said, referring to the pro-Russian militants who call themselves “self-defense forces” on the Crimean peninsula.

A group of journalists from a Ukrainian television channel had been badly beaten by these military irregulars, who guarded the perimeter of the base while the Russian troops were attempting to seize it by force, the Ministry spokesman said. “Some of the reporters are still missing,” he added. “We are trying to find where they are.”

Late on Friday evening, Colonel Viktor Kukharchenko, the deputy commander of another Ukrainian air force base in Crimea, told TIME that the “attack is on” when Russian forces began streaming through the gate and demanding the Ukrainian forces surrender. No shots appear to have been fired in the course of the raid, Kukharchenko said, and the Ukrainians refused to give up their positions.

Before Friday’s attack, Russian forces have been satisfied to surround all of the Ukrainian bases in Crimea and barricade their servicemen inside. By slamming through the gates with a military vehicle, the Russian forces initiated an escalation of the ongoing conflict over Crimea between Russia and Ukraine that could easily have led to bloodshed and a full-scale war. It not was immediately clear why the Russians withdrew.

At the time of the attack, roughly 100 Ukrainian troops were inside the base, which houses a reserve command center for anti-aircraft defenses on the Crimean peninsula, the spokesman for the Defense Ministry said. Kukharchenko, an air force colonel at the nearby base of Belbek, said that the forces who attempted to seize the base included Russian servicemen not wearing any identifying insignia, as they have refused to do throughout the weeklong occupation of Crimea by Russian forces.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied that his military has been surrounding Ukrainian bases in Crimea since the end of February, even though the vehicles of the occupying force have Russian license plates and some of its officers have told reporters they are from Russia.

(MORE: Crisis in Crimea: Unrest in Ukraine’s Russian Stronghold)

TIME North Korea

North Koreans to Vote in Sham Elections

But don't expect any surprises

North Koreans will cast their ballots this Sunday to elect a new legislature that has already been chosen for them.

Voters will get to cross the ballot by choosing “yes” or “no.” By the numbers, tubby despot Kim Jong Un is expected to come out of the North Korean election looking like the most popular leader in the world. Of course, those numbers include 100% voter turnout and only one Kim-approved candidate per district.

Going to the polls is mandatory for all eligible voters in the totalitarian state. Results are usually released the following day. For outside observers, the sham elections sometimes reveal clues about the internal power struggles taking place within the Hermit Kingdom.

For more, watch video above.


‘Don’t Freak, I’m a Sikh,’ Video Seeks to Combat Bias

Sikh fashion blog Singh Street Style' video implores people not to "freak" when they see a man in a turban.

For some in the west, a man wearing a turban can become a target of suspicion, fear and even violence.

In 2013, a Gap add featuring Sikh actor Waris Ahluwalia was famously defaced, changing the slogan “make love” to “make bombs.” The attack implied a connection between Sikhs and terrorists that does not exist in reality. It made apparent something most Sikhs themselves know al too well: that their religion, and the turbans they wear to symbolize it, are greatly misunderstood.

The Singh Street Style blog, an English Sikh fashion site, produced this “Don’t Freak, I’m Sikh” video in an effort to correct misperceptions and explain their culture. Calling their turbans “a crown, a uniform and a symbol against oppression,” it asks viewers to see the turban as a sign of friendship and integrity.

TIME Religion

Dalai Lama Pushes For Religious Unity at National Cathedral

'At a fundamental human level we all want the same thing. We all want happy life'

The Dalai Lama advocated for religious harmony during a speech at the National Cathedral in Washington on Friday, while protesters spoke out against him both inside and outside the event.

“We need constant effort to promote religious understanding on the basis of mutual compassion, mutual respect,” the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader said. The talk with the Dalai Lama was called “Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World,” which is also the title of his 2011 book. Throughout the morning, he emphasized the fact that the differences between human beings are “secondary.”

“Regardless of believer or non-believer, we are too concerned about secondary level of differences,” the Dalai Lama said. “At a fundamental human level we all want the same thing. We all want happy life.”

He also addressed his relationship with China, which expressed anger over his recent visit with President Barack Obama, though the Dalai Lama noted earlier in the program that he was not involved in political matters. A local high school student asked the leader why the country was “so upset by your work,” to which he responded simply, “Ask them.”

“We really love Chinese people, admire Chinese people,” he said before saying that structure within the country is “really harmful to develop Chinese creativity freely.” He added: “1.3 billion Chinese people have every right to know the reality.”

Outside of the Cathedral, however, the International Shugden Community, a Tibet-based sect of Buddhism, rallied in protest of the leader who they say discriminates against their religious practices. One protest leader told Washington radio station WTOP that the Dalai Lama banned their practice and “refuses any dialogue.”

TIME Middle East

Palestinian Leader Says He Won’t Recognize Israel as a Jewish State

President Mahmoud Abbas meets with French President Francois Hollande in Paris
President Mahmoud Abbas meets with French President Francois Hollande in Paris, Feb. 21, 2014. Corbis

As the deadline looms for a framework for peace, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he also will not consent to only having a portion of east Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says in a new interview that there’s “no way” he’ll recognize Israel as a Jewish state or consent to having only a portion of east Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.

Abbas’ comments, published Friday by the WAFA news agency, come as Secretary of State John Kerry has spent seven months trying to mediate peace talks between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Associated Press reports. Kerry has set a deadline of April 29 for a peace framework between the two groups, and Abbas comments underscored how unlikely meeting that goal now seems.

Abbas will meet at the White House with President Barack Obama on March 17 as part of the administration’s push for a peace deal. Obama met with Netanyahu on March 3.


TIME olympics

Ukraine Will Compete in Sochi Paralymics

Flag bearer Mykhaylo Tkachenko of Ukraine attends the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympic Games at Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia, March 07 2014. Julian Stratenschulte—EPA

Despite Russia's military forces moving into Crimea, Ukraine has decided to participate in the Winter Paralympics in Sochi just hours before the opening ceremonies and had earlier consulted with athletes

Ukraine has decided it will participate in the Winter Paralympics in Sochi even as Russian troops have taken over the Crimea region of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Paralympic Committee announced its decision just hours before the opening ceremonies of the games Friday, the Associated Press reports. It consulted with the athletes before opting not to boycott the competition amid a tense geopolitical standoff with Russia.

“I don’t remember a situation when the organizing country during a Paralympics started an intervention on the territory of a country taking part. I don’t know what to extent the team can focus on the result now,” the the AP quoted Valeriy Sushkevich, president of the National Paralympic Committee of Ukraine, saying to the R-Sport agency.

Sushkevich added that he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday to ask for peace during the games. Putin reportedly listened to his case, though he did not guarantee a truce. Sushkevich said Ukraine’s team will leave if the military conflict escalates further.

The International Paralympic Committee has asked Russia to recognize the U.N.’s Olympic Truce, which appeals for ceasefire during the Olympic games. The Ukrainian athletes chanted “peace to Ukraine” during the flag-raising ceremony in Sochi on Thursday night. The incident is now being investigated as a possible breach of Olympic rules that ban political protest.


TIME Africa

Ex-Girlfriend Says ‘Blade Runner’ Had a Temper and Loved His Gun

Samantha Taylor says Oscar Pistorius was trigger happy and quick to get angry

Oscar Pistorius’ ex-girlfriend said Friday that the Olympian double-amputee known as “Blade Runner” had a temper and was known to fire his gun when angry.

Samantha Taylor testified at Pistorius’ murder trial in South Africa that he was quick to get angry, would frequently scream at her and her family members, and cheated on her multiple times, including with Reeva Steenkamp, the woman he’s accused of murdering. She also said he never went anywhere without his pistol, and recalled at least two occasions when he had drawn or fired his gun out of anger, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Taylor said Pistorius had once fired his pistol out of an open sunroof because he was angry that a policeman had stopped the car and touched the gun. Taylor also described another incident when Pistorius had pulled a gun on a car that was following theirs.

Taylor’s testimony also rebutted one of the defense’s key arguments, that Pistorius sounded like a woman when he screamed. “When he screamed, it sounded like a man,” she said.

Pistorius killed his girlfriend, Steenkamp, very early on Valentine’s Day morning last year. His defense team says the Olympian athlete shot into the bathroom thinking he was shooting an intruder and protecting Steenkamp. The prosecution says Pistorius shot Steenkamp during an argument that was heard by multiple neighbors.

Taylor said that Pistorius did occasionally wake up and think there were intruders in the house, but she said he always woke her up when that happened.



What Global Petropolitics Really Mean for You

This week on WNYC’s Money Talking, I chatted about the news story that interests me the most at the moment—the economic backdrop for the escalating political crisis in Ukraine and what the crisis means for the economies of Europe, Russia, Ukraine and the United States. Listen below.


America Can’t Fix Europe’s Russian Energy Problem

Gasoline pump at gas station
Kyoungil Jeon—Getty Images

With the tumult in the Ukraine continuing, there’s been a lot of talk over the last week about how the U.S. may have a major lever in the fight against Putin’s Russia—petro-politics. Usually, it’s emerging markets like Russia that use oil and gas as a political tool. And indeed, the fact that countries like Germany get about a third of their energy from Russia is a key reason that Europe hasn’t been as willing to go along with trade sanctions in the past. Sure, the Russians need Europe as much as Europe needs them (if not more)—about 70 percent of Russia’s export revenues come from oil and gas, much of it sold to the Continent. But no European leader wants to risk an energy shortfall or peak prices in the middle of winter.

The question is whether the U.S., which is becoming a major shale oil and gas producer in its own right, can actually do anything to help Europe loosen the Russian energy noose. The Obama administration believes it can, and is pushing to accelerate the process of getting American liquid natural gas (LNG) online and ready for export. A front-page story in the New York Times hinted that American energy could make a big difference in Europe, and in the conflict with Russia.

I think that view is overly optimistic. Here are three reasons why:

  1. LNG is, and remains, a very localized market. The first LNG export port to clear the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) hurdle is Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass port, on the Sabine Pass River on the border between Texas and Louisiana. But it won’t come online until late 2015 at the very earliest—possibly even 2016. The next three ports on the wait list haven’t even been green lighted.
  2. The U.S. isn’t producing a lot of shale oil and gas yet, anyway. While the U.S. energy department is predicting that shale oil production will climb to about 10 million barrels per day by 2017, right now, it’s about 3 million bpd. Given that America itself consumes over 90 million bpd of fossil fuel, it’s not as if we are about to become a major energy exporter, even as our own production rises.
  3. We need cheap energy at home if we are going to fuel the manufacturing renaissance. We’ve heard a lot about the growth of manufacturing in America over the last few years. But a big part of that story is easier access to cheap shale oil and gas here at home. American business wants to build pipelines to take Western shale oil and gas to Rust Belt factories to improve competitiveness. If we start to see much of it going to Europe, we may have a political and/or trade fight on our hands.

The bottom line: American can’t save Europe when it comes to energy. The Continent needs to wean itself off Russian gas, no question. But it’s more likely to do that by rethinking its recent reductions in nuclear energy and overly generous subsidies for green energy (which have pushed up prices), as well as by looking abroad to places like West Africa for new energy sources than by counting on the US for a quick energy fix. While America’s push to speed up the LNG approval process may send a useful political message to Putin, it won’t change the European energy dynamic on the ground anytime soon.

TIME Music

‘Beethoven’ of Japan Apologizes After Revelation He Didn’t Write Music

'It is indeed the case that I have deceived people and for that I am extremely sorry,' Mamoru Samuragochi said

The artist once called the ‘Beethoven’ of Japan formally apologized Friday for deceiving fans about composing his own music. He also admitted he is not legally deaf, saying he can “hear sounds, but the sounds are twisted.”

“I have caused a great deal of trouble with my lies for everyone, including those people who bought my CDs and came to my concerts,” Reuters reports Mamoru Samuragochi said during a news conference in Tokyo.”It is indeed the case that I have deceived people and for that I am extremely sorry.” News of his deception broke in February, when the 50-year-old Samuragochi admitted he had used a ghostwriter. Music professor Takashi Niigaki later came forward as the writer.

Days after news of his ghostwriting broke, Japanese figure skater Daisuke Takahashi used his music in a performance during the Olympics. On Friday, Samuragochi said he and Niigaki would meet at coffee shops where the composer would write out “general plans” from which Niigaki would compose music. Samuragochi’s most popular work is a tribute to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima called “Hiroshima Symphony.”


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