Pro-Moscow rebels, backed by what NATO says is the open participation of Russian troops, pressed on with their offensive on Sunday after restarting the war in eastern Ukraine with the first all-out assault since a truce five months ago.
US President Barack Obama said Washington was considering all options short of military action to isolate Russia. The European Union called an emergency meeting of foreign ministers of its 28 member states.
"We are deeply concerned about the latest break in the ceasefire and the aggression that these separatists – with Russian backing, Russian equipment, Russian financing, Russian training and Russian troops – are conducting," Obama told a news conference during a visit to India.
"I will look at all additional options that are available to us short of military confrontation and try to address this issue. And we will be in close consultation with our international partners, particularly European partners."
NATO accuses Moscow of sending troops to fight on behalf of rebels in territory the Kremlin has dubbed "New Russia" in a war that has killed more than 5,000 people.
In some of the strongest language ever from Brussels, Donald Tusk, the former Polish prime minister who now presides over EU summits as European Council president, denounced "appeasement" of Moscow, a word with unmistakable World War Two connotations.
"Once again, appeasement encourages the aggressor to greater acts of violence. Time to step up our policy based on cold facts, not illusions," Mr Tusk said on Twitter.
Fighting in eastern Ukraine had mainly died down since a September ceasefire, but in recent days the war has returned in full force, with the rebels announcing the effective end of the truceand an offensive to expand territory under their control.
On Saturday, rebels attacked Mariupol, a strategic Black Sea port of 500,000 people and the biggest city still in government hands in the two rebel-dominated eastern provinces. Kiev said 30 civilians were killed in shelling.
Rebels launched new attacks on Sunday against government positions elsewhere along the front line that winds through the two restive provinces, the Kiev army said.
"Rebels are attacking the positions of anti-terrorist operation troops extremely intensively, using artillery, mortars, grenade launchers, tanks," military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said in a televised briefing.
The rebels say government forces have been hitting cities with artillery, killing civilians and forcing them to advance to push Kiev's troops further from population centres. Moscow blames the West for failing to force the Kiev government to talk to the rebels.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke on Sunday to US Secretary of State John Kerry and EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini. He told both the escalation in violence was a result of Kiev refusing a proposal laid out in a letter from Russian President Vladimir Putin to Ukraine's Petro Poroshenko to withdraw heavy weapons away from the demarcation line.
Mr Lavrov blamed the escalation of violence in east Ukraine on what he called "constant shelling of populated areas by Ukrainian army". He called on Mr Kerry to press Kiev to renounce "betting on the military scenario."
Mr Mogherini called an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers for Thursday to discuss Ukraine and the Mariupol assault.
Russia says it has not sent troops into Ukraine, and any Russians there are volunteers. NATO says this is nonsense.
Gaza gunmen test-fired ten rockets, firing them into the Mediterranean. The IDF did not respond to the firing. Meanwhile an investigation into allegations of corruption involving Yisrael Beytenu keeps expanding, with a former ex-cabinet secretary now also questioned.
Syria’s Assad mocked the US, saying in an interview its plans to train the rebels are illusory, and the rebels would end up defecting for IS.
The Times of Israel is liveblogging events as they happen.
The Syrian leader also questioned talks to be held in Moscow this week, telling Foreign Affairs magazine that his government would attend but was not convinced the opposition figures taking part represented Syrians on the ground.
During a radio interview to be aired Sunday night, former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit suggested Iran may have “directly or indirectly” murdered an Argentine prosecutor who threatened the blow the lid off Iran’s involvement in a pair of deadly bombings in Buenos Aires.
In a transcript of Shavit’s interview obtained by WND and scheduled to air on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” on New York’s AM 970 The Answer, the former Israeli intelligence chief said his years of experience lead him to suspect Iran is behind the death of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman.
The 51-year-old Nisman was found on Jan. 18 slumped in the bathroom of his apartment with a bullet wound in his head, not long after accusing Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of shielding Iranians sought in a pair of terrorist bombings in 1992 and 1994.
According to the Associated Press, Nisman’s death came just days after he gave a judge a report alleging Kirchner secretly reached a deal to prevent prosecution of former Iranian officials accused of involvement in the 1992 bombing of the Jewish embassy in Buenos Aires and the 1994 bombing of Argentina’s largest Jewish center, the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association. The first attack killed 29 and injured 242, the second killed 85 people and injured more than 200.
Shavit’s accusation came after Klein asked him whether Iran, as some claim, is more a threat to Israel that it is to the world at large.
Kirchner has confirmed Nisman’s death was not a suicide, but has also denied his accusation that she has been covering up Iranian involvement in the bombing.
A journalist credited with being the first to report the gunshot death of federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman has left Argentina because of fear for his safety.
Damian Pachter of the English-language Buenos Aires Herald left the country Saturday, the local journalism group Foro de Periodismo Argentino said.
Pachter told The Times of Israel on Sunday afternoon that he is on his way to Israel. Haaretz reported earlier that he is “planning to take refuge” in the country.
Pachter, who is Jewish and has Israeli citizenship, told a local internet site that “I left because my life was in danger. My phones were being monitored. I intend to return to Argentina when my sources tell me conditions have changed. I don’t think that will happen in the term of this government.”
The Buenos Aires journalism group said Pachter reported on Friday he was followed by unknown people and felt his safety was at risk but did not elaborate.
Nisman was found dead last Sunday, the day before he was to testify before congress about his explosive allegations that President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner shielded Iranian officials wanted in the South American country’s biggest terrorist attack.
Nisman was shot from a distance of at least 15 centimeters, according to the findings of an initial forensics exam, a source in the country’s Federal Police told local media on Saturday.
The finding completely contradicts the government’s initial claims that Nisman had committed suicide, an assertion Kirchner has since backtracked from.
Britain's Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron predicted that theelection victory of Greece's radical left-wing Syriza party would create "economic uncertainty" across Europe, while left-of-centre parties welcomed the results as a message that the European Union should change its economic policy.
Belgium's finance minister said Sunday that he saw some room to discuss the "modalities" of the Greek debt program with the other eurozone nations after the victory by Syriza which seeks an end to painful austerity measures.
Johan Van Overtveldt said on the eve of a eurozone finance ministers' meeting that "we can talk modalities, we can talk debt restructuring, but the cornerstone that Greece must respect the rules of monetary union — that must stay as it is."
Germany's opposition Left Party l called the Syriza victory a "sign of hope for a new start in Europe."
Left Party co-chairs Katja Kipping and Bernd Riexinger said in a statement that the result was a blow to the policies dictated to Greece by the "troika" of creditors — the European Central Bank, European Commission and International Monetary Fund — and the German government.
"The Greek election isn't just a chance departure for Greece, but for the whole of Europe. It provides an opportunity for a democratic awakening and a fundamental change of direction in the European Union," the statement said.
Over two years ago, we first highlighted Yanis Varoufakis' perspectives on the destruction of Greece and Europe's bogus growth pacts. Since then he has grown in both reason and popularity as his no-nonsense discussons of the mis-design of the euro (and potential solutions) have made him the front-runner to be Syriza's new finance minister. Never one to mince words or play politics, Varoufakis tells Channel 4's Paul Mason in this brief (but chilling for Brussels) interview, what his party would do if it gets into government in Greece, and admits the prospect of power in Europe is "scary". As he sums up, "we are going to destroy the Greek oligarchy system," and with it, we suspect, much of the narrative that holds the fragile European Union together...
As Varoufakis previously explained,
The Troika is trying to suffocate us and to put pressure on the democratic choiceby telling us: either you follow our requirements, or you will be cast into hell.They actually have their own threats as exogenous circumstances of the situation, as they are simply part. They are trying to terrorize the Greek voters.
Towns and cities across Pakistan plunged into darkness early Sunday when what officials said was an attack by militants on a transmission line short-circuited the national electricity grid, presenting a new indictment of the government’s faltering efforts to solve the country’s chronic power crisis.
Emergency efforts to end the blackout, widely described asPakistan’s worst ever, resulted in a partial restoration of power in the capital, Islamabad, and the most populous city, Karachi, by Sunday evening. Even so, 80 percent of the country remained without power, including the provincial capitals of Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta, an official said.
The minister for water and power, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, blamed separatist rebels in the western province of Baluchistan who, he said, had blown up a critical transmission line. But experts said the attack only highlighted the growing vulnerability of Pakistan’s power grid, which has come under severe strain since the electricity crisis began in earnest about seven years ago.
The rebels have attacked the electricity grid in Baluchistan three times since Jan. 13, said Muhammad Younas Dhaga, a senior official at the water and power ministry, during a briefing to reporters on Sunday. The third assault, which took place just before midnight on Saturday, blew up two important towers near the Uch power station, tripping the national grid.
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