Two members of Russian protest group Pussy Riot have been left with chemical burns and head injuries after they were attacked by a group of men wearing patriotic symbols.Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were in the city of Nizhny Novgorod in the west of Russia to visit a local jail with members of their prisoners right group.They were set upon while eating breakfast in a McDonalds restaurant.The men, who were wearing St George ribbons which commemorate the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, used pepper spray and poured rubbish and green antiseptic over them. The women have blamed local police for being involved in the attack. Police said they were investigating the case and refused to comment on the allegations.Pussy Riot became known around the world after they were jailed for performing a protest song against President Putin in a Moscow cathedral. They were freed in December 2013 as part of a government amnesty.
Despite efforts to find a diplomatic solution, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said there is still no deal between Washington and Moscow over how to solve the crisis in Ukraine. Speaking in Rome after meeting his US counterpart, Secretary of State John Kerry, Lavrov said the White House’s order to freeze assets and block visas of Russians responsible for an incursion into Crimea was not constructive. The two men met briefly on the sidelines of a conference about Libya for the second day running, having held talks in Paris on Wednesday.
Hollywood’s fascination with Greek warfare continues with the 3-D ‘300’ sequel ’300: Rise of an Empire’. It is set eight years after the death of King Leonidas and this time features a kick-ass warrior queen, played by Eva Green from ‘Casino Royale’. The 33-year-old French actress plays Artemisia, a Persian ruler who fights the Greeks on the Aegean Sea. Director Zack Snyder delivers a heavily stylised take on the 480 BC battle. “It’s my first action film and the fact that she’s so gutsy and brave and fearless, I loved it. You know it’s kind of a fantasy because, of course, in real life you’d wouldn’t be able to cut off heads or fight double swords. So it’s kind of… you know, I feel like a little girl dreaming,” said Green.In 2006’s ‘300’ Leonidas dies but stops the Persians. But, with his army rebuilt, Xerxes marches on the Greek city-states. Democratic Athens, first on Xerxes’ path, bases its strength on its fleet, led by Admiral Themistocles. He is forced into an unwilling al
In a complex to and fro the Ukrainian flag flies once again over the Donetsk regional headquarters in eastern Ukraine.Since Monday, the building has been passing back and forth between pro-Russian groups and Ukrainian authorities.Police sources said that the pro-Moscow protesters who stormed the building on Wednesday afternoon had left overnight, and there were unconfirmed reports that at least 70 were arrested.Though the Donetsk building is back in pro-government hands, the situation in Crimea is rapidly evolving. Tim Guldimann, an observer from the democratic watchdog the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) described a country on the brink.“The situation might seem quiet, almost normal if you go out on the streets. However, it’s extremely tense and I would consider this as a miracle that bloodshed could be avoided so far.”The tensions are far from over, the Polish defence minister reported that the OSCE monitoring mission had been barred from entering Crimea by unidentified troops.
Burlesque is making a comeback across the United States. Stars like Dita Von Teese, movies like ‘Burlesque’ with Christina Aguilera and Cher, or ‘Moulin Rouge’ with Nicole Kidman, have encouraged a lot of women to choose burlesque performance as a profession – and these ladies see the job as an art form. As a result the genre has had a real renaissance.“When you can bring in artistry and costuming and dance and music, it becomes much more than just a striptease. It’s this huge collaborative art, and I think that’s what the big popularity is,” says Trixie Minx.In recent decades, there has been a revival of burlesque, sometimes called neo-burlesque. We are told there is a new generation out there nostalgic for the spectacle and perceived glamour of classic American burlesque.“Most major cities have a burlesque troupe – or five. Seattle, Chicago, New York. The Carolinas have a couple of really large troupes that have been around for a while. New Orleans is huge with the burlesque scene. Atlanta,” says Mama Dixie.While “classic” burlesque consisted of women undressing and men telling jokes, today’s shows are more varied and have higher production values.“When you’re doing it on stage in front of a bunch of people with a live band there’s so much that can go wrong. And when you nail it, you are telling yourself, ‘Wow! I did it! This is great.’”, says Tesla Coil. These performers certainly know how to coin good stage names!For the artistes it is also about self-confidence when they go on stage and do their show.“I think that burlesque, when it’s seen, it’s so clear,” agrees Trixie Minx. “It’s a sense of female empowerment. You’re literally revealing yourself to an audience, and they’re cheering and screaming every bit of the way.”In the end everyone involved insists burlesque is about having fun. The word derives from the Italian burlesco, which, in turn, is derived from the Italian burla – a joke, ridicule or mockery.
Coming under scrutiny in this edition of U-talk is the European Citizens’ Initiative. Our question comes from Marie in Paris who asks: “Brussels is currently examining the first European Citizens’ Initiative which has just been fully validated. This initiative, called “Right2Water” seeks universal access to drinking water. What are its chances of success?”Antony Gravili, spokesman for the European Commission responsible for Inter-Institutional Relations and Administration responded: “How do you define success for a European citizens’ initiative? Well, in legal terms it’s very simple: an initiative is successful if it collects more than a million statements of support with a minimum number from at least seven member states. “By this definition, the Right2Water initiative is a big success already. They collected nearly 1.7 million statements of support with a minimum number from 13 member states. But your viewer asks what are the chances of success of one of the things they’re asking for (that is to say) to secure the universal access to water and sanitation.“Obviously this is not something that can happen overnight, everybody understands there is not a magic wand that can make this happen tomorrow. This demands a lot of work, a concerted effort over a long period of time with governments around the world cooperating closely and the European Commission is already doing a lot. “In recent years, with our support we lifted 32 million people towards access to water and nine million towards sanitation. Today the European Commission and member states combined contribute 1.5 billion euros annually towards this important goal, this makes us the biggest contributor in the world to this effort. The Right2Water organisers recognise this, they don’t ask us to start working towards this goal, they ask us to increase our efforts. “So will this be possible? We have to wait and see. Inside the European Commission right now studies are ongoing to see how we can react to this proposal and we expect the college (of European Commissioners) to reach a decision by the 20th of March at the latest.”If you would also like to ask a question on U-talk, click on the participate button below.
France’s unemployment rate fell to 10.2 percent of the workforce in the final three months of last year according to the latest data from the INSEE statistics office. It was the first quarterly decline in two years and provides a boost for President Francois Hollande – who was elected on a promise to create jobs which so far has not been fulfilled. Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici and Labour Minister Michel Sapin said this shows the situation stabilised in 2013 though unemployment remains high. Their statement continued: “The battle does not end here and it will have to be expanded to bring joblessness down in our country.”The French unemployment rate was however calculated under a new method that substantially modified the statistics. The third-quarter figure was revised downward to 10.3 percent from 10.9 percent previously.It is measured according to the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) criteria. Competitiveness hopesHollande’s Socialist government, which has invested heavily in subsidised job programmes for younger and older workers, hopes that a plan to slash payroll taxes in exchange for companies increasing their hiring will bring the jobless rate down further.On Wednesday, employers and trade unions agreed to a blueprint for implementing Hollande’s plan, which aims to cut the cost of labour as part of efforts to restore companies’ waning competitiveness. The European Commission has said it was eager to see details of Hollande’s payroll tax scheme, lamenting the fact that France had so far made little progress on competitiveness.Some employers have warned that Hollande’s plan may not start to have an effect on the economy until the end of this year or early 2015.
In Afghanistan, at least five Afghan troops have been killed in a NATO led airstrike in the east of the country. Several soldiers were also badly wounded in the friendly fire incident in the early hours of Thursday morning in Logar province. NATO has already begun an inquiry into what happened but the attack is likely anger Kabul. Coalition airstrikes on friendly targets have helped deepen divisions between Washington and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. He has refused to sign a bilateral treaty allowing US troops to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
Crimea’s parliament unanimously voted in favour of becoming part of Russia on Thursday, RIA news agency said, citing the text of the decision.It was agreed “to enter into the Russian Federation with the rights of a subject of the Russian Federation”, the text said.Reuters
The EU has announced an asset freeze’s on Ukraine’s ousted President Victor Yanukovych and 17 other senior officials and family in his entourage.They are all blamed for embezzling state funds. The list includes Yanukovych’s son and his closest aides, including the country’s former interior minister, prosecutor general, and head of security services. Ukraine’s ex-prime minister Mykola Azarov and his son are also targeted. The sanctions against Yanukovych and his hierarchy come as EU leaders hold emergency talks in Brussels over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. For the moment, it is thought unlikely they will adopt more than symbolic measures against Moscow, Europe’s biggest gas supplier, with both Berlin and London reluctant to begin sanctions just yet.
Three years after the uprising which killed Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, one of his sons, Saadi, has been extradited from Niger to Libya. Authorities confirmed his transfer Thursday morning saying he is being held in a Tripoli prison.He had fled to neighbouring Niger following his father’s death. The country had previously refused to hand him over saying that he was “certain to face the death penalty”.He stands accused of shooting protesters, as well as a string of other offences under his father’s leadership, though is not wanted by the International Criminal Court.A keen footballer, he was best-known in Europe for his brief career at top Italian club, Perugia – a position believed to have been bought through the family’s financial influences in the country.
Italy has pledged two million euros to help maintain the historical site of Pompeii.Some of the structures, preserved under volcanic ash since the times of ancient Rome, recently collapsed during heavy rain.A sharp fall in staffing numbers over the last decade is thought to have contributed to the decay.
India has set a date for parliamentary elections expected to be the biggest in history.It is thought over 800 million people will vote when polling booths open on April 7.The announcement already prompted small scale clashes to break out between supporters of rival parties.The results of the vote aren’t expected until May.
In Egypt a government appointed inquest has largely blamed the followers of ousted President Mohammed Morsi for the deaths of hundreds of protesters.Over 600 people were killed in the clashes, which the council claimed occurred after Muslim Brotherhood supporters provoked security forces.The investigation did however lay some blame at the door of the security personnel for their actions in the dispersal of the protest camp.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has announced the end of diplomatic relations with Panama because of a “conspiracy” against him. Maduro announced the move in a speech marking the anniversary of Venezuela’s late socialist leader Hugo Chavez. A year after Chavez succumbed to cancer, Maduro paid an emotional tribute to the former leader. “Never before has there existed a defender that gave the poor and working people their rights. That gave them education, culture, work; that gave them dignity; that gave them conscience. Hugo Chavez has passed to history as the defender of the poor of Venezuela and the defender of the poor in America,” said the president. But Maduro is facing the biggest challenge to his rule: violent anti-government demonstrations that have led to 18 deaths since February. Protesters gathered in Caracas on Wednesday. High crime rates and food shortages are behind much of the anger.
NATO has chosen to cease all staff level meetings with their Russian counterparts whilst announcing a full review of its relationship with Moscow.NATO’s Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, also said further ties would be sought with Ukraine:“At the same time, we will step up our engagement with the Ukrainian civilian and military leadership. We will strengthen our efforts to build the capacity of the Ukrainian military, including with more joint training and exercises.”The US has also said that a small number of fighter jets will be sent to the Baltic to bolster NATO’s presence there.The moves come in a bid to pressure Moscow into backing down from its current stance in Crimea.Reacting to the announcements the Kremlin said NATO was applying Cold War standards to Russia.
A leaked phone call has been released between Estonia’s Foreign Minister, Urmas Paet and the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief, Catherine Ashton, that poses fresh questions around the use of snipers in Kyiv during protests in late February.In the conversation, said to have taken place a week ago, Paet notes:“It’s really disturbing to know the new coalition doesn’t want to investigate what exactly happened. So there is a stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers it was not Yanukovych but somebody from the new coalition.”Estonia’s Foreign Minister has since stressed that in this conversation he merely relayed opinions he’d heard and wasn’t drawing any conclusions. In a press conference on Wednesday he had this to say on the leaked phone call: “I didn’t give any evaluation. I stated that this information was going around. Anyone can put together things like that. The conversation was held a week ago. But it was put up now, a week later, now when the new government in Ukraine has started work.”Estonia has emphasised that Paet didn’t blame Ukraine’s opposition for Kyiv’s sniper killings, during his comments.Talinn also called into question how some media outlets have since interpreted his words.Ukraine’s interim government has now started an investigation into the bloody incident, for which both sides blame each other.
There was Intense diplomatic activity on wednesday in Paris over the crisis in Ukraine.The Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers met separately with US Secretary of State John Kerry and their French, British, German and EU counterparts on the sidelines of an international meeting on Lebanon.No agreement has so far emerged but all sides have agreed to meet again in the coming days and to resolve the tensions through dialogue.“We agreed to continue intense discussions in the coming days with Russia, with Ukrainians in order to see how we can help normalize the situation, stabilize it and overcome the crisis. All parties agreed today that it is important to try to resolve these issues through dialogue,” US Secretary of State, John Kerry said.There had been hopes that the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers would meet but this was not to be.Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Andrii Deshchytsia said: “We are continuing our consultations, and we believe that we will come to some positive outcome. I’m on my way to Brussels to meet Prime Minister (of Ukraine) to discuss with him further steps.”EU leaders are due to meet on Thursday in Brussels to consider sanctions against Russia.Meanwhile Kerry has said that he and Lavrov will meet again in Rome on Thursday.
Hundreds of pro-Russian activists have recaptured a government administration building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. Many of the activists broke through police ranks and smashed their way into the building. Some flew the Russian flag from its roof on Wednesday just hours after Kyiv’s authorities managed to fly their own flag there for the first time since Saturday.Later on Wednesday, at least seven people were injured and several more arrested after scuffles between two bigger demonstrations on the city’s central square. One group of around 10,000 supporters of the new authorities in Kyiv chanted “Down with Putin! Donetsk is Ukraine!”A pro-Kyiv supporters said: “I’m against the war, against the separation. One thing is federation or autonomy but I want to live under the Ukrainian flag. I don’t want to live in Russia.”The other group, around 2,000 pro-Moscow protesters,chanted “Russia! Russia!”One of the pro-Russian supporters said: “We don’t want to be separated from Ukraine but we want a federation here so nobody can touch us (Donetsk).”Ukraine says it has not used force to protect the building in Donetsk. It wants to avoid violence that might provoke a Russian military response.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have withdrawn their ambassadors from Qatar in protest at Doha’s interference in their internal affairs. The unprecedented public spat has raised questions about the future of the Gulf Co-Operation Council and highlighted growing tensions between the Gulf Arab allies over Qatar’s support for Islamist groups across the Middle East, particularly in Syria. Qatar voiced ‘regret and surprise’ at the decision saying it would not withdraw its own envoys. From Dubai our correspondent Fransois Chignac said: “The dispute which has been rumbling for some time came to a head when a Qatari man was jailed for seven years here in Dubai for supporting a banned organisation – namely the Muslim Brotherhood. This latest action is by far the most serious threat to the alliance of pro-Western nations since it was set up in the 1980s.In Doha euronews’ Mara Barada said: “The official response here in Doha was one of ‘surprise’. A communique, said Qatar would not be withdrawing its own ambassadors in response adding that it remained committed to “the security and stability” of the Gulf Co-operation Council. All eyes are now on Kuwait – a fellow GCC member – whose emir is expected to attempt to heal the rift.’‘