U.S., EU to impose new sanctions on Russia for Ukraine actions

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Russia is expected to face new sanctions Monday for its actions in Ukraine, President Barack Obama told reporters in Manila, Philippines.

"The sanctions build on the ones that were already in place. We're moving forward with expanded list of individuals," he said.
The move, Obama said, was to spur Russian President Vladmir Putin to "walk the walk not just talk to talk" in resolving the crisis in Ukraine.
If the latest round of sanctions don't work, the next phase could target sectors like banking, Obama said.
The European Union also is expected to impose sanctions Monday on about 15 Russian officials who are believed to be undermining democracy and creating chaos in Ukraine, according to Western diplomats.
The sanctions will include asset freezes and travel bans.
The EU is not expected to impose sanctions on Putin associates in part because the European judiciary system has a much higher bar in terms of applying the law, the diplomats said.
Judges are not able to look at intelligence to sign off on the sanctions, they said. One Western diplomat said there was also some division within the EU as to whether sanctions against Putin's cronies should be imposed.
Several European countries are also concerned their economic interests would be greatly affected with such sanctions. Additionally, some countries feel more space should be given to diplomacy before such measures are considered, the diplomat said.
Neither the United States nor EU is ready to impose sanctions on Russian industries, like the energy sector, both U.S. officials and Western diplomats said.

Israel risks becoming apartheid state if peace talks fail, says John Kerry

It is believed to be the first time a US official of Kerri's standing has used the term 'apartheid' in the context of Israel

John Kerry  

John Kerry, the US secretary of state. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, has warned in a closed-door meeting that Israel risks becoming an "apartheid state" if US-sponsored efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement fail.
In an apparent sign of Kerry's deep frustration over the almost certain collapse of the current nine-month round of peace talks – due to conclude on Tuesday – he blamed both sides for the lack of progress and said failure could lead to a resumption of Palestinian violence against Israeli citizens.
The remarks were made on Friday at the Trilateral Commission, a non-governmental organisation of experts and officials from the US, western Europe, Russia and Japan. A recording was acquired by the Daily Beast website.
Kerry also suggested that a change of either Israeli or Palestinian leadership might create more favourable conditions for peace and the final, long-delayed agreement on the shape of a Palestinian state.
Kerry's remarks represent a significant departure, as senior US officials historically have avoided the word "apartheid" relating to Israeli policies. It is believed to be the first time a US official of Kerry's standing has used the contentious term in the context of Israel, even if only as a warning for the future.
Although the danger to Israel of a failure to move towards a two-state solution has been framed by Israeli politicians in similar terms, US officials have long been wary of following suit. When the former president Jimmy Carter used it for the tile of his 2006 book Palestine: Peace or Apartheid, it caused controversy.
Kerry's comments reflect similar recent warnings to Israel from western diplomats that the collapse of the peace talks might lead to the country's increasing isolation.
Kerry said: "A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens – or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state.
"Once you put that frame in your mind, that reality, which is the bottom line, you understand how imperative it is to get to the two-state solution, which both leaders, even yesterday, said they remain deeply committed to."
Kerry has had a sometimes strained relationship with some senior Israeli officials as the peace talks have become gridlocked. In January Israel's defence minister, Moshe Ya'alon, described Kerry as "obsessive and messianic".
In 2008 in an interview during his election campaign, Barack Obama explicitly rejected "injecting a term like apartheid" into the discussion over Israel and Palestine. "It's emotionally loaded, historically inaccurate, and it's not what I believe," he said.
Attempting to defuse the row, Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the US state department, said: "Secretary Kerry, like justice minister Livni and previous Israeli prime ministers Olmert and Barak, was reiterating why there's no such thing as a one-state solution if you believe, as he does, in the principle of a Jewish state.
"[Kerry] was talking about the kind of future Israel wants and the kind of future both Israelis and Palestinians would want to envision. The only way to have two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two-state solution. And without a two-state solution, the level of prosperity and security the Israeli and Palestinian people deserve isn't possible."
The Emergency Committee for Israel, whose chairman is the prominent neo-conservative William Kristol, said: "On Friday, secretary of state John Kerry raised the spectre of Israel as an 'apartheid state'. Even Barack Obama condemned the use of this term when running for president in 2008. It is no longer enough for the White House to clean up after the messes John Kerry has made. It is time for John Kerry to step down as secretary of state, or for President Obama to fire him."


9 Bloggers, Journalists Held Before US Official Arrives

(Nairobi, April 28, 2014) – The Ethiopian authorities should immediately release six bloggers and three journalists arrested on April 25 and 26, 2014, unless credible charges are promptly brought, Human Rights Watch said today.

United States Secretary of State John Kerry, who is scheduled to visit Ethiopia beginning April 29, should urge Ethiopian officials to unconditionally release all activists and journalists who have been arbitrarily detained or convicted in unfair trials, Human Rights Watch said. The arrests also came days before Ethiopia is scheduled to have its human rights record assessed at the United Nations Human Rights Council’s universal periodic review in Geneva on May 6.

“The nine arrests signal, once again, that anyone who criticizes the Ethiopian government will be silenced,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The timing of the arrests – just days before the US secretary of state’s visit – speaks volumes about Ethiopia’s disregard for free speech.”

On the afternoon of April 25, police in uniform and civilian clothes conducted what appeared to be a coordinated operation of near-simultaneous arrests. Six members of a group known as the “Zone9” bloggers – Befekadu Hailu, Atnaf Berahane, Natnael Feleke, Mahlet Fantahun, Zelalem Kibret, and Abel Wabela – were arrested at their offices and in the streets. Tesfalem Weldeyes, a freelance journalist, was also arrested during the operation. Edom Kassaye, a second freelance journalist, was arrested on either April 25 or 26; the circumstances of her arrest are unclear but all eight individuals were apparently taken to Maekelawi Police Station, the federal detention center in Addis Ababa, the capital.

The police searched the bloggers and journalists’ offices and homes, reportedly with search warrants, and confiscated private laptops and literature. On April 26, another journalist, Asmamaw Hailegeorgis of Addis Guday newspaper, was also arrested and is reportedly detained in Maekelawi.

The detainees are currently being held incommunicado, Human Rights Watch said. On the morning of April 26, relatives were denied access to the detainees by Maekelawi guards, and only allowed to deposit food.

Human Rights Watch released a report in October 2013 documenting serious human rights abuses, including torture and other ill-treatment, unlawful interrogation tactics, and poor detention conditions in Maekelawi against political detainees, including journalists. Detainees at Maekelawi are seldom granted access to legal counsel or their relatives during the initial investigation phase.

The Zone9 bloggers have faced increasing harassment by the authorities over the last six months. Sources told Human Rights Watch that one of the bloggers and one of the journalists have been regularly approached, including at home, by alleged intelligence agents and asked about the work of the group and their alleged links to political opposition parties and human rights groups. The blogger was asked a week before their arrest of the names and personal information of all the Zone9 members. The arrests on April 25, 2014, came two days after Zone9 posted a statement on social media saying they planned to increase their activism after a period of laying low because of ongoing intimidation.

A Human Rights Watch report in March described the technologies used by the Ethiopian government to conduct surveillance of perceived political opponents, activists, and journalists inside the country and among the diaspora. It highlights how the government’s monopoly over all mobile and Internet services through its sole, state-owned telecom operator, Ethio Telecom, facilitates abuse of surveillance powers.

Kerry is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom in Addis Ababa “to discuss efforts to advance peace and democracy in the region.” Kerry should strongly urge the Ethiopian government to end arbitrary arrests, release all activists and journalists unjustly detained or convicted, and promptly amend draconian laws on freedom of association and terrorism that have frequently been used to justify arbitrary arrests and political prosecutions. The Obama administration has said very little about the need for human rights reforms in Ethiopia, Human Rights Watch said.

“Secretary Kerry should be clear that the Ethiopian government’s crackdown on media and civil society harms ties with the US,” Lefkow said. “Continued repression in Ethiopia cannot mean business as usual for Ethiopia-US relations.”
http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/04/28/ethi ... erry-visit