The United States on Friday offered a cautious response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's statement that he would respect the result of Ukraine's weekend election. "We would welcome an indication from Russia that they would accept the results of a free and fair and democratic election in Ukraine," said White House spokesman Jay Carney. Carney's cautious language and choice of tense however indicated US skepticism over Putin's comments, after Washington has spent weeks condemning what it sees as Russia's deliberate destabilization of Ukraine. "Right now we are focused on Ukraine's efforts to carry out that election freely and fairly," Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One.
A columnist for a Turkish newspaper has proved her own point all too well after a piece she wrote criticising Ankara's crackdown on press freedom was rejected by her editor. Washington-based academic Gonul Tol left her position at the Aksam daily to preserve her "professional ethics" in a case that has sparked fierce debate about censorship in Turkish media. Her article focussed on the race-fuelled backlash against a report from Freedom House this month that claimed the country had seen the biggest decline in press freedom in Europe. The US-based media rights watchdog downgraded Turkey's status from "partly free" to "not free" -- putting the EU hopeful in the same category as Libya, South Sudan, Ukraine and Zambia -- after it put a record number of journalists behind bars.
After having spearheaded a 2011 uprising that toppled Egypt's strongman and former air force chief Hosni Mubarak, many young revolutionaries are now in jail and an ex-army chief is about to become president. Their dramatic reversal in fortunes could well presage a return to the repression of the Mubarak era, activists fear. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who overthrew elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last July, is expected to sweep the 26-27 election amid a clamour for a new strongman to restore stability. Sisi, who had been Mubarak's military intelligence chief before Morsi fatefully made him army chief, toppled the Islamist with the approval of millions of protesters, including some of the revolutionary youth.
Krasnoarmiysk (Ukraine) (AFP) - Svetlana Pershenko mops sweat from her forehead as she waits on a bench outside her local election commission to pick up papers for the polling station in her village in strife-torn eastern Ukraine. Although election workers insist everything is going to plan, organisation seems chaotic with ballot papers yet to be delivered and some election officials refusing to oversee the vote.
Communities affected by fracking could be offered Â£20,000 for every well drilled under plans outlined by the government Friday aimed at easing access to shale gas. Shale oil and gas companies would only be granted access to land below 300m under the plans which ministers say would have "no negative impact on landowners". With the average site containing 10 wells, communities could be set to receive an additional Â£800,000, media reports said. The payments, to be made following consultations with community groups, would come on top of the Â£100,000 one-off lump sum already on offer to pro-fracking communities along with a 1 percent profit-share.
By Jon Herskovitz AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Neither U.S. Senator Ted Cruz nor Governor Rick Perry are on the ballot in Tuesday's run-off elections in Texas, but that doesn't mean the two larger-than-life politicians who share a penchant for cowboy boots are not central figures in the contest. Cruz appears likely to win this round, with Tea Party allies poised to post victories in several contests. That could further raise the first-term senator's profile and return some luster to the Tea Party movement after several candidates were defeated by mainstream Republicans in primaries this week in other states. "This would serve as further verification that Texas Republican primary voters have moved further to the right and embraced Cruz's message of ideological purity and partisanship over a more pragmatic conservative vision of someone like Perry, during most of his tenure in office," said Mark Jones, chair of the political science department at Rice University in Houston.
An Indian court Friday ordered anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal to remain behind bars for another two weeks as he continued to refuse to pay bail in a defamation case. A Delhi court extended Kejriwal's custody to June 6, days after he was arrested for refusing to pay 10,000 rupees ($170) in bail over a defamation case filed by a leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that won a resounding victory in recent elections. Kejriwal, leader of the Aam Admi (Common Man) Party who was briefly Delhi chief minister, included BJP leader Nitin Gadkari in a list of politicians earlier this year that he alleged were the country's most corrupt.
Sharm el Sheikh (Egypt) (AFP) - European tourists no longer jostle on the hotel dance floors and many sunbeds are empty along the pristine beaches of Egypt's Red Seat resort of Sharm El-Sheikh. But as business languishes at the white-washed hotels there are hopes for a leader who can restore stability to Egypt and create the confidence that will bring back the tourists. If the ubiquitous campaign posters are anything to go by, ex-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is the favourite in next week's presidential election. Sisi, who overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July, unleashing the bloodiest period in the country's recent history, pledges to bring order and revive the economy.
Thailand was under junta rule on Friday after the military removed the civilian government in an overthrow it said was aimed at ending deadly political turmoil. The military takeover by commander-in-chief General Prayut Chan-O-Cha came after nearly seven months of political turmoil and coup rumours, although the backdrop is years of political strife and rival street protests. The final straw appeared to be when the caretaker government aligned with ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra -- the arch-enemy of the military-backed royalist elite -- reaffirmed its refusal to step down. The sudden move also raised questions about whether there was a split within the military between supporters of the royalist establishment and soldiers sympathetic to Thaksin.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday the West needed to learn the "right lesson" from the Ukraine crisis, as he criticised efforts to contain Russia since the collapse of the USSR. "If the goal is to prevent such crises from repeating in the future, the right lesson must be learned from events in Ukraine," Lavrov told a security conference in Moscow. The Ukraine crisis is "the logical result of the evolution of the situation in Europe in the last 25 years," he said in reference to the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall and subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union. Lavrov also said "foreigners speaking English" were among government troops battling pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine.
By Valerie Volcovici WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Last month, Washington's top environment advocate went to the Cleveland Clinic to talk about how President Barack Obama's landmark efforts to crack down on power-plant carbon emissions would ease a range of respiratory illnesses. Speaking separately to historically black Morehouse College in Atlanta in April, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy also framed proposed new rules in terms of social justice, as poor black communities are disproportionately affected by air pollution. The meetings, and hundreds more like them over the past year, mark an unprecedented campaign by the White House and the EPA to win broad public and state backing for rules expected to come June 2 to limit for the first time carbon emissions from power plants, which are the biggest source of greenhouse gases. Both the message and the method reflect a conscious effort to avoid the problems that two years ago nearly sank Obama's health care reform, another contentious policy milestone that will become an indelible part of his legacy, according to officials and sources familiar with the process.
Blantyre (Malawi) (AFP) - Malawi's high court has thrown out President Joyce Banda's application to block the release of election results, three days after the chaotic vote began. Banda's People's Party (PP) had alleged that "figures that are coming from the districts tally centres are not matching with the number of voters from different polling stations because the system has been hacked," according to a court affidavit. Banda on Thursday claimed "serious irregularities" in this week's highly charged election, saying people had voted multiple times, ballots had been tampered with, presiding officers arrested, and the computerised voter counting system had collapsed. The country's electoral commission chief Maxon Mbendera earlier rebuffed Banda's request for an audit of the votes.
Benghazi (Libya) (AFP) - Twenty members of a single family were wounded when a rocket slammed into their home near an army base in Libya's second city Benghazi overnight, medical and security sources said Friday. The family's home lies close to the headquarters of the army's special forces unit in Benghazi, which is backing a rogue general who has vowed to crush Islamists in the city, a security official said. The 20 family members all suffered shrapnel wounds when the rocket hit their home in the central Abuhdima neighbourhood, Al-Huari hospital spokesman Hani al-Aribi said. Rogue general Khalifa Haftar launched an assault on Islamists in the city last Friday in which at least 79 people were killed.