This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. We'd like to start the program today talking about two disturbing situations from two different parts of the world that have been very much in the news this week. There are the violent protests in Ukraine that have been going on all week. More than 70 people have died there. And while the Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leaders have reached an agreement to end the violence, tensions are still very high there.
Originally published on Fri February 21, 2014 1:21 pm
China is stepping up war games in preparation for a possible conflict with Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, a tiny island chain in the East China Sea claimed by both Beijing and Tokyo, a senior U.S. Navy official says.
Originally published on Fri February 21, 2014 4:52 pm
We're updating this post as the day continues.
In what could be a major move toward ending the violence in the streets of his capital, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and leaders of the anti-government opposition reached agreement Friday on a deal to hold new elections, form a unity government and restore a constitution drafted in 2004.
Australian police think they know what happened to a rare pink diamond that's worth $180,000. The diamond was swiped from a jewelry store by a man who fled on a bicycle. Based on fingerprints and surveillance footage, police arrested the guy, who's a British tourist. They're pretty sure he swallowed the loot but they need firm evidence. And X-ray was inconclusive. Think there's a pretty clear solution here - what goes in must come out. How about a little bit of patience?
Now as Soraya just mentioned, we'll have to wait to see if Ukrainians who are part of this protest movement side with the opposition leaders and agree to this deal. It is worth remembering that Ukraine, in terms of history and language, is really split in two - the eastern Russian-speaking half looks to Russia. The western Ukrainian-speaking region, which is once part of Poland, feels much closer to Europe. And people in the west are more often opposed to President Yanukovych.
Putin greets his Syrian counterpart, Bashar Assad, in Moscow on Dec. 19, 2006. Russia has remained a steadfast ally of Assad despite three years of civil war and Western calls for Assad's ouster.
Credit Mikhail Klimentyev / AP
Russian leader Vladimir Putin (right) listens to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych during a meeting outside Moscow in 2011. Putin has supported Yanukovych in the current crisis in Ukraine, while the U.S. has been increasingly critical. This is one of many issues where Russia and the U.S. are at odds.
Originally published on Fri February 21, 2014 10:29 am
The worldview of Russian President Vladimir Putin could be summed up along these lines:
Moscow's precipitous decline in global influence since the Soviet breakup must be reversed. Russia must be respected as the dominant power in former Soviet republics like Ukraine. Russia is entitled to a strong voice in the Middle East based on longstanding ties to Syria and other Arab states. In the rest of the world, Russia will be a counterweight to the U.S. and the West, which meddles in far too many places.
Earlier today, we spoke with another protester at Independence Square, known locally as Maidan Square. Viktor Andrusiv has been part of the protest movement from the day it started last November. We reached Andrusiv just hours after he says one of his friends was killed by police. I asked him what happened.
VIKTOR ANDRUSIV: Actually, we still are trying to find out. But he was attacking the police and he has a lot of wounds from a gun.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish.
In Ukraine, protesters and police clash today in the worst violence yet during the three-month old uprising against President Viktor Yanukovych. A flurry of diplomatic visits to Kiev and the EU's threat of sanctions have failed to slow the carnage. At least 100 people are reported dead after two days of fighting. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is in Kiev covering the crisis.
Russia's president is also being criticized by Ukrainian-Americans watching the violent confrontations going on in their home country. Ukrainians in the U.S. tend to side with those protesting in Kiev's independent square. They're angry that President Viktor Yanukovych chose a closer relationship with Russia over a deal with the EU.
The Philadelphia area is home to more than 55,000 people of Ukrainian ancestry. NPR's Jeff Brady reports the community is holding rallies and lobbying their members of Congress.
The Winter Games in Sochi have focused world attention on Russia in the age of Putin: huge state expenditures, contracts that benefit the president's cronies, complaints about shoddy workmanship, controversy over Russia's treatment of gays and lesbians.
Now, to Cairo where the spotlight is on an important case in the government's crackdown on press freedoms. Three jailed journalists for the al-Jazeera English channel were taken to their first court hearing today. Their arrest nearly two months ago has been denounced by rights groups. As NPR's Leila Fadel reports, they were denied bail today in a short but dramatic appearance.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel. We begin this hour with Syria. Peace talks have stalled and with no clear path forward, all sides are, once again, digging in. A look at Lebanon's Hezbollah reveals how the region is primed for war. Its fighters are giving pivotal help to the Syrian regime. NPR's Alice Fordham is in Lebanon and reports on why a group founded on resisting Israeli occupation has embraced the war next door.
Two self-styled amateur archeologists from Germany, who filmed themselves scraping off pieces of Egypt's Great Pyramid in hopes of proving that the ancient wonder was built by people from the legendary city of Atlantis, are now facing possible criminal charges in their home country.
During a trip to Egypt in April 2013, Dominque Goerlitz and Stephan Erdmann, along with a German filmmaker, were granted access to parts of the Great Pyramid at Giza that are normally off-limits to the public. They smuggled their samples back to Germany with plans to produce a documentary.
A wax sculpture of Stalin sits behind the desk he used at the dacha. From the time he first began to visit the villa, Stalin was signing death warrants for his rivals — and living in fear of retribution.
Credit Natalia Kolesnikova / AFP/Getty Images
Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's dacha, or summer villa, was built in Sochi, Russia, in 1934. Stalin used the villa — which was painted green to camouflage it from prying eyes — until 1945. The bucolic setting belies the violence of Stalin's rule.
Credit Alexander Demianchuk / Reuters/Landov
Two items in the conference room at the villa were not there during Stalin's time: the portrait over the fireplace (he claimed he didn't like portraits of himself) and the carpet (because he preferred to be able to hear approaching footsteps on wooden floors).
We're going to turn now to a side of sports we do not often hear about. Now these days in the U.S. and perhaps the U.K., we talk about the ugly side of sports, but we're talking about hooligans who overreact after a game or maybe abusive coaches or poor personal behavior by players. Now, though, we are going to hear the story of an athlete whose love for basketball landed him in the middle of a civil war.
This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Closing ceremonies for the Olympics are this weekend, but there's still plenty of action left in Sochi. So we're joined once again by William Douglas. He is a reporter for McClatchy, the news organization, and he's the founder and editor of "The Color of Hockey" blog. And he's with us once again from Sochi. Bill, welcome back.
Originally published on Thu February 20, 2014 12:16 pm
Some 80 elderly South Koreans, long cut off from family members by the Korean War, arrived in North Korea on Thursday for a brief reunion with loved ones they have not seen in decades.
About 180 North Koreans were meeting with 82 elderly South Koreans and 58 of their family members who had traveled by bus to the North Korean resort of Mount Kumgang, or Diamond Mountain. The meetings between family members will take place Feb. 20-25.
Originally published on Thu February 20, 2014 9:40 am
There's a sad symmetry to the news from Venezuela, where anti-government protests in recent weeks have been fueled in part by outrage over the shooting death of a beauty queen — a death that underscored that nation's struggle to control violent crime.
One of the five people killed this week during protests against the socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro, it's now being reported, was another young beauty queen.
This next story is a mindboggling mix of Russia's past and present. It involves members of the Russian band Pussy Riot. We heard them talk with David Greene on this program. You know, they're the music group imprisoned largely for opposing Russia's president. Yesterday they were at the Sochi Olympics and they were attacked by Cossacks.
The spark for these protests was Ukraine's relationship with its giant neighbor, Russia. For almost all of its history Ukraine was part of Russia and many Ukrainians speak Russian as their first language. For Russian officials, the question now is whether Ukraine leans toward the West, or toward Russia as it always has. So, let's see how Ukraine's troubles look from Moscow.
Lilia Shevtsova is with the independent Carnegie Moscow Center. She's on the line from there. Welcome to the program.
Journalists involved in a high-profile trial in Egypt made a brief and dramatic appearance in a Cairo courtroom today. The Egyptian government has been restricting press freedom, and it accused these journalists from the Al Jazeera network of terrorism, apparently because they were trying to interview members of a banned opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood.