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Brexit Delay Possible if MPs Approve Deal, EU Chief Says

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The European Union could approve Britain’s request for a short delay to Brexit but only if U.K. MPs next week approve the withdrawal deal they have twice rejected, European Council President Donald Tusk said Wednesday. 

 

With nine days to go before Britain is due to leave the bloc, the country is gripped by uncertainty about how to proceed, and Tusk’s statement was received as an ultimatum to lawmakers to get behind May’s deal. 

 

“I believe a short extension will be possible, but it will be conditional on a positive vote on the withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons,” Tusk told reporters. 

 

May told her country in a televised address from Downing Street late Wednesday that she was still “determined” to deliver Brexit and pull Britain through its worst political crisis in a generation. 

 

“You want this stage of the Brexit process to be over and done with this. I agree. I am on your side,” May said, adding that she was requesting a delay until June 30 with “great personal regret.”

Lawmakers have twice resoundingly rejected May’s agreement, and a third vote the premier hoped to hold this week was canceled by the House of Commons speaker on the ground that the same vote could not be held again. 

Brussels meeting

 

May now heads to Brussels for an EU leaders summit Thursday and Friday, where she will hope to secure a possible addition to her agreement that will let her put it to a vote next week. 

 

The pound fell sharply against the euro during the day, reflecting fears that Britain could crash out without any agreement at all. 

 

Exactly 1,000 days on from Britain’s seismic 2016 vote to split from the other EU nations, the country is unclear about the path ahead. 

‘Credibility’

May said any postponement beyond the end of June would undermine voters’ trust. 

 

“It is high time we made a decision” on leaving, May said in her address. 

 

However, the European Commission advised EU leaders that it would be preferable to either have a shorter delay to May 23 — when voting begins in European Parliament elections — or a much longer one, until at least the end of 2019. 

 

A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed London’s “clear request” and said she would “make every effort” to bring about an agreement at the Brussels summit. 

 

But her foreign minister, Heiko Maas of the junior coalition partner Social Democrats, said May’s letter “only pushes the solution further down the road”. 

 

And in Paris, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had a tough message.  

“A situation in which Mrs. May is unable to deliver sufficient guarantees on the credibility of her strategy at the European Council meeting would lead to the request being refused and a preference for a no deal,” he said.

Country in crisis

The British Parliament has been deadlocked for months over Brexit, with MPs unable to decide how to implement the referendum result, and voters themselves are also sharply divided. 

 

But Britain is now in crisis, facing the potentially catastrophic prospect of leaving its biggest trading partner after 46 years with no arrangements in place. 

 

May had reluctantly accepted that a delay to Brexit was needed, and told MPs Wednesday she had written to Tusk. 

 

“Some argue that I am making the wrong choice and I should ask for a longer extension to the end of the year or beyond, to give more time for politicians to argue over the way forward,” May told Britons in her special message. 

 

“That would mean asking you to vote in European elections nearly three years after our country voted to leave. What kind of message would that send?” 

 

Elections for the European Parliament will be held at the end of May. 

Resignation threat?

In her letter, May said she intended to bring her deal back to the Commons “as soon as possible,” arguing that if it passed, she would need the delay to implement the treaty. 

 

If the text is rejected a third time, May told lawmakers earlier on Wednesday that Parliament would have to decide what happened next. 

 

“As prime minister, I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than June 30,” she told lawmakers, in comments interpreted as a hint about her own future. 

 

May’s team will try to engage senior members of the main opposition Labor Party, hoping to bring enough of its members on side to pull her deal through.

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Turkey, Iran Join Forces Against Kurdish Rebels

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Turkey is heralding as groundbreaking a joint military operation with Iran against Kurdish rebel groups. Turkish-Iranian relations have markedly improved, to the concern of Turkey’s Western allies. 

 

Coordinated and concurrent military strikes against “terror groups” were carried out along the “borders of the two countries,” read a statement by the Iranian Interior Ministry, released Wednesday and reported by Turkish media. The announcement came two days after Iran, through military sources quoted by the Fars news agency, denied involvement. 

 

The Turkish interior minister, Suleyman Soylu, announced the operation Monday, declaring it “a first in history.” The operation targeted the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is fighting a decades-long insurgency for greater minority rights in Turkey. 

 

Few details about the joint military mission, however, have been given by either Ankara or Tehran, other than a few photos, released Wednesday, showing Turkish soldiers in mountainous regions.

Ankara has long courted Tehran’s support in its war against the PKK. The rebel group has used Iranian territory to enter Turkey from its main bases in Iraq, located near the Iranian border. 

 

According to former senior Turkish diplomat Aydin Selcen, Tehran’s support would be essential in targeting the PKK’s headquarters in Iraq’s Qandil mountains.  

“Iran is geographically important because the entry to Qandil is on the Iranian side, as Qandil is a complex mountainous region that is almost inaccessible,” Selcen said.

Claims seen as not ‘realistic’

Selcen opened Turkey’s consulate in Iraq’s Kurdish region and served in Baghdad, spending much of his time working on countering the PKK. Selcen has voiced skepticism about Ankara’s claims of a breakthrough with Tehran in Ankara’s war against the PKK. 

 

“I don’t find it realistic that such a [joint] operation took place. We have always heard for years that Iran will offer such cooperation, and it never happened. Because Iran has its problems with its Kurdish population, they would prefer to keep their own Kurdish region quiet,” Selcen said. 

 

The PKK has an Iranian wing called PJAK, which in recent years has mostly avoided confrontation with Iran’s military forces. 

 

Analysts often describe Iranian-Turkish relations as a combination of cooperation and rivalry. However, they say efforts to end the Syrian conflict are providing the impetus to strengthen bilateral cooperation, even though Iran and Turkey backed rival sides in the civil war. 

 

The deepening bilateral relations coincide with a souring in ties between Turkey and the United States. Turkey is angered by America’s support of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in its war against Islamic State. Turkey claims the YPG is affiliated with the PKK. 

 

Turkish and U.S. military officials are in talks over the creation of a security zone in Syria to protect Turkey’s border from the YPG.

With Turkish media reporting the U.S.-Turkish talks deadlocked, analysts suggest the announced Iranian-Turkish operation is sending a signal to Washington that Ankara has alternatives in combating the PKK and its affiliates.

“It’s a credible idea if you are sitting behind your desk in Ankara,” said Selcen. “But whether such a move will have much effect today on the U.S., I am not so sure, because Turkey and U.S. relations as they are right now have enough troubles. … So it could be quite a risky strategy.” 

Pulling Ankara from West

 

Analysts say Iran, along with Russia, is working to draw Ankara away from its traditional Western allies. Both countries have committed themselves to developing deeper trade relationships with Turkey. 

They point out, however, that there are limitations to this courtship, given they remain rivals in the region. 

 

“We get no trading favors from either Iran or Russia, and that does not surprise me,” said analyst Atilla Yesilada of Global Source Partners, a business management consultancy in New York. “Iran and Russia understand a more prosperous Turkey would invade their markets and would eventually become a political rival to them.” 

 

Four years ago, Tehran and Ankara signed a preferential trade agreement to boost annual trade to $35 billion. In 2018, bilateral trade amounted to $9.3 billion, a nine-year low. 

 

Trade is set to worsen after the Iranian parliament passed legislation in January aimed at encouraging use of locally produced goods. 

 

“I don’t know if it [the new legislation] is specifically against Turkish imports, but in reality, it does affect a lot of Turkish imports into Iran,” said Yesilada. “I have spoken to dozens of businesses who told me Iranians had not granted any favors to Turkish businesspeople.” 

 

Similar skepticism has been expressed in the past by Turkish officials regarding Tehran’s commitment to assisting Ankara in combating the PKK. “They always talk about cooperation, but when it comes to it, they do nothing,” said a senior Turkish counterterrorism official, who asked not to be identified. Turkish government ministers in the past went as far as accusing Tehran of supporting the PKK in a bid to weaken Turkey. 

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is campaigning ahead of hotly contested local elections, is aware anti-Western rhetoric and policies play well with his nationalist and religious base. Analysts suggest with the election results of the last four years, Erdogan may have more room to maneuver for a diplomatic reset.

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Ukraine Introduces New Sanctions Against Russia

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Ukraine’s president has ordered new sanctions against Russian companies and individuals involved in construction and other activities in Crimea.

Top Russian lawmakers are among the people potentially affected by the decree President Petro Poroshenko’s signed Wednesday. It targeted those involved in building a bridge from Russia to Crimea and a November incident on the Black Sea in which Russia seized Ukrainian navy vessels and their crews.

Individuals involved in staging local elections in areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russia separatists were also targeted. Russia has thrown its weight behind the separatists.

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 in a move that Ukraine and almost all of the world views as illegal. Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Black Sea peninsula Monday to mark the fifth anniversary of the annexation.

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Суд відмовив кандидату в президенти Бойку в задоволенні позову до НСТУ

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Шевченківський районний суд міста Києва відмовив у задоволенні позову кандидата на пост президента України Юрія Бойка до Національної суспільної телерадіокомпанії України, повідомляє сайт суспільного мовника 20 березня.

Політична партія «Опозиційна платформа – За життя» зверталася до НСТУ з проханням про розміщення політичної реклами кандидата на пост президента України Юрія Бойка.

«Національна суспільна телерадіокомпанія України звернула увагу на ряд порушень законодавства в наданій рекламі й просила усунути такі порушення для подальшої можливості розміщення в ефірі. Проте на сайті «Опозиційної платформа – За життя» з’явилася маніпулятивна заява про нібито «цензуру» з боку ПАТ «НСТУ», – ідеться в повідомленні.

Суспільний мовник також повідомив політичній партії, що «у випадку усунення всіх порушень законодавства реклама кандидата на пост президента України Юрія Бойка буде розміщена в ефірі на загальних засадах як політична», але Бойко звернувся до суду з проханням визнати нерозміщення його ролика в ефірі каналів Суспільного протиправним.

«Суд встановив, що позивачем не надано жодних доказів протиправності дій Суспільного мовника. Крім того, суд наголосив, що ПАТ «НСТУ» не порушувало вимог чинного законодавства про вибори, так само як не порушувало й жодних прав Юрія Бойка як суб’єкта виборчого процесу», – повідомляє НСТУ.

У партії «Опозиційна платформа – За життя» ще не коментували цього повідомлення.

Президентські вибори в Україні відбудуться 31 березня. У виборчих бюлетенях будуть прізвища 39 кандидатів. Другий тур у разі, якщо жодний із кандидатів не набере понад половину голосів виборців, запланований на 21 квітня.

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Випробування Bayaraktar: у РНБО заявили про «якісно новий рівень» безпілотної авіації України

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«За своїми характеристиками безпілотник Bayraktar є одним із найкращих» – президент Петро Порошенко

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Троє українських військових поранені від початку доби на Донбасі – Міноборони

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У Міністерстві оборони України повідомили, що троє військовослужбовців Збройних сил зазнали поранень на Донбасі від початку доби з боку підтримуваних Росією бойовиків.

«О десятій ранку російсько-окупаційні війська здійснили кілька прострілів зі стрілецької зброї в бік оборонців Мар’їнки, а о 10:35 випустити три міни калібру 120 міліметрів по наших позиціях, обладнаних біля села Новолуганське. У відповідь наші захисники застосували по противнику вогонь з гранатометів. Внаслідок цих ворожих обстрілів троє військовослужбовців зі складу Об’єднаних сил зазнали поранень», – повідомили в Міноборони.

За даними відомства, загалом до полудня бойовики тричі відкривали вогонь в бік позицій ЗСУ.

Раніше у штабі Операції об’єднаних сил повідомляли, що один український військовий був поранений на Донбасі на початку доби 20 березня в районі населеного пункту Лебединське.

Підтримувані Росією угруповання «ДНР» і «ЛНР» традиційно звинувачують українських військових в обстрілах.

На засіданні Тристоронньої контактної групи в режимі відеоконференції 7 березня Україна домовилася про оголошення нового режиму тиші на Донбасі з 00:00 8 березня.

Перед цим Тристороння контактна група щодо врегулювання ситуації на Донбасі оголошувала про чергове «безстрокове і стале» припинення вогню, починаючи з півночі 29 грудня 2018 року, з нагоди новорічних і різдвяних свят. Воно було порушене майже відразу після заявленого початку і відтоді, як і всі попередні перемир’я, порушується постійно.

Збройний конфлікт на Донбасі триває від 2014 року після російської окупації Криму. Україна і Захід звинувачують Росію у збройній підтримці бойовиків. Кремль відкидає ці звинувачення і заявляє, що на Донбасі можуть перебувати хіба що російські «добровольці». За даними ООН, станом на кінець грудня 2018 року, за час конфлікту загинули близько 13 тисяч людей, майже 30 тисяч – поранені.

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Trump Linking Huawei, China Trade Roils Justice Department

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President Donald Trump shocked some last month when he suggested that the criminal charges against Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies and its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, might be used as leverage in his administration’s ongoing trade talks with China.

 

“We’re going to be discussing all of that during the course of the next couple of weeks,” Trump told reporters at the White House Feb. 22 in response to a question about Meng’s case.  “We’ll be talking to the U.S. attorneys. We’ll be talking to the attorney general. We’ll be making that decision. Right now, it’s not something we’ve discussed.”

 

The president’s apparent willingness to possibly barter away the prosecution of Huawei and one of its executives in exchange for a favorable trade deal with China alarmed legal experts who say it could lead to pushback at the Justice Department. 

“If the White House told the Department of Justice that it wanted Justice to dismiss altogether the case against Huawei and Ms. Meng, I’d expect there to be mighty objections and resistance to that,” said David Laufman, who served as a senior national security official at the Justice Department until last year and is now in private practice. 

Ron Cheng, a former federal prosecutor who was the Justice Department’s sole resident envoy in Beijing, said it would be highly unusual for the criminal case against Meng to be affected by the trade talks. “There are a number of concerns about the precedent something like that would establish,” said Cheng, now a partner at the O’Melveny & Myers law firm.

The Justice Department unsealed criminal charges against Meng, Huawei and several subsidiaries on Jan. 29 for violating U.S. sanctions on Iran and stealing U.S. intellectual property, nearly two months after Meng was arrested in Canada at the request of U.S. authorities. 

The indictments exacerbated tensions with China, which called the case against Meng “political persecution.” That prompted Trump’s overture.

Trump, who prides himself on his negotiating skills, could well have been bluffing in hopes of enticing the Chinese into a trade agreement.But a quid pro quo deal as part of the trade talks is not without precedent.

Last year, Trump ordered the Commerce Department to lift a ban imposed on ZTE Corporation, Huawei’s smaller rival.  ZTE had violated the terms of an agreement with the department to settle charges that it had exported U.S. goods to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.   

In Huawei’s case, the extent of Trump’s personal involvement and the nature of any talks between the White House and the Justice Department about the company’s fate remain unclear.  After Meng’s arrest in December, a spokesman for National Security Adviser John Bolton said that neither Bolton nor Trump had been told about her detention in advance. Trump later said the White House had talked to the Justice Department about the Huawei case  

 

Senior Justice Department officials have sought to tamp down talk of any linkage between the Huawei case and the ongoing trade talks with China. Asked about the issue after the Justice Department unsealed the indictments in January, then acting attorney general Matt Whitaker said, “We do our cases independent from the federal government writ large because that’s the way the criminal system has to be.”

 

A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to say whether the White House had engaged the department in any discussions about Huawei since Trump’s latest comments.   The company has pleaded not guilty to the charges brought in New York and Seattle. Spokespeople for the U.S. Attorneys for those cities said the cases are proceeding.  

The charges against Huawei come as the Trump administration has stepped up a global campaign against the telecom behemoth, warning that the company founded by a former People’s Liberation Army official poses a national security threat and urging allies to keep it out of their 5-G networks. While Australia and New Zealand have imposed a ban, other U.S. allies have demurred.  

With business operations in more than 170 countries and annual revenues of $108 billion, Huawei is the world’s largest supplier of telecom equipment. Last year, the multinational company beat Apple to become the No. 2 manufacturer of smartphones and tablets in the world.

In national security related criminal cases, it is not uncommon for the Justice Department to notify the White House about impending law enforcement actions.This allows officials to deescalate conflict if necessary or weigh in on the timing of an announcement.  “It’s not to give the White House prior approval authority or veto authority,” Laufman said. 

Some experts see the real possibility that the White House crosses the line and intervenes in the criminal case.  Short of calling for a dismissal of the case, the White House could press the Justice Department to devise a resolution that would afford the agency a measure of vindication without appearing to let the company or Meng off the hook.

Such a resolution could involve Huawei admitting responsibility, paying a hefty fine, and agreeing to a stringent compliance regime and other conditions, according to Laufman. 

“But I think even there, that will likely engender concern throughout the Justice Department,” Laufman said.

 

That is how ZTE settled charges of violating U.S. sanctions. In 2017, ZTE pleaded guilty and paid $430 million for exporting U.S. goods and technology to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. 

The company later admitted to violating the terms of its settlement with the Commerce Department and faced near collapse after the department responded by forbidding U.S. companies from selling it crucial components. 

After Trump intervened, the Commerce Department lifted its ban, but not without imposing what it called the most “stringent compliance measures.”   

The Huawei case could well be settled under similar terms. But there is a hitch.  Because she faces criminal charges, Meng would have to appear in a U.S. court to enter a plea.  

“The only way to resolve a case like this with some sort of a formal disposition is to come to the United States,” Cheng said. 

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Venezuelans Find Ways to Cope with Inflation and Hunger

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Francibel Contreras brings her three malnourished children to a soup kitchen in the dangerous hillside Caracas slum of Petare where they scoop in spoonfuls of rice and scrambled eggs in what could be their only meal of the day.

 

Part of the tragedy of daily life in socialist Venezuela can be glimpsed in this small volunteer soup kitchen in the heart of one of Latin America’s biggest slums, which helps dozens of children as well as unemployed mothers who can no longer feed them.

 

Some Venezuelans manage to endure the nation’s economic meltdown by clinging to the shrinking number of well-paid jobs or by receiving some of the hundreds of millions of dollars sent home by friends and relatives abroad — a quantity that has swollen in recent years as millions of Venezuelans have fled.

 

But a growing percentage of people across the country, especially in slums like Petare, are struggling to cope.

 

Contreras’s husband, Jorge Flores, used to have a small stand at a local market selling things like bananas and yucca, eggs and lunchmeat — trying to scrape out a profit in a place where hyperinflation often made his wholesale costs double from day to day. Then he was robbed at gunpoint by a local gang. And his brother crashed the motorcycle he used to supply his stand.

So Flores abandoned the market stall and looked for other work. He does some plumbing jobs and the family has turned its living room into a barbershop, sheltered beneath a corrugated metal roof held down by loose bricks and planks. It’s decorated with origami-like stars that the family has made out Venezuela’s colorful but rapidly depreciating bolivar bills.

 

“Our currency is worthless,” Contreras said. “These days, I prefer trading a bag of flour for a manicure or a haircut.”

 

The scarcity of milk, medicine and other basics — along with routine violence —  has eroded support for socialist President Nicolas Maduro even in poor neighborhoods like Petare that once were his strongholds. Maduro says there’s an opposition-led plot to oust him from power and says U.S. economic sanctions and local opposition sabotage are responsible for the meltdown.

 

Various local polls show he retains support from roughly a fifth of the population, many of them ideological stalwarts, government-connected insiders or poor voters dependent on government handouts, including the so-called CLAP boxes of oil, flour, rice, pasta, canned tuna and other goods that arrive several times a year.

 

Contreras’ family of four gets those boxes, but it’s not enough to get by on for long. For months, they’ve been relying on the soup kitchen launched by opposition politicians as the main source of protein for their children. On a recent day, her 7-year-old son Jorbeicker played a pickup soccer game in the hilly, dusty streets in front of her home, while her husband practiced styling his mother’s hair.

 

“I’m barely getting by,” Flores said, scissors in hand.

 

The four-day power outage that brought most of Venezuela to a halt this month added to Flores’ misery. He wasn’t able to use the electric clippers needed to give customers the sort of trims they demand.

 

“It hit us in a big way,” he said. “You absolutely need the clippers.”

The couple estimates the power outage cost the family the equivalent of $11 in missed haircuts — a significant sum in a country where the minimum wage amounts to $6 a month, even if most people supplement that figure by working side jobs and pooling resources with friends and neighbors.

Contreras and Flores charge 2,500 bolivars — about 70 U.S. cents — for a trim. A government-subsidized kilogram of flour can cost almost three times that, and Contreras says that lines for the rationed goods can be endless and she sometimes comes back empty-handed. She also said she feels unsafe in the lines. Dozens of people have been killed in gang crossfires over the years, and some have been crushed to death when lines of shoppers turned into stampedes of desperate looters.

 

Next-door neighbor Dugleidi Salcedo sent her 4-year-old daughter to live with an aunt in the city of Maracay, two hours away, because she could no longer feed her. “My boys cry,” the single mother of four said. “But they resist more than her when I tell them that there’s no food.”

After walking back from the soup kitchen, she opened the rusty door to her home of scraped, mint-colored walls. Inside, her 11-year-old son Daniel, who was born partially paralyzed and with developmental disabilities, lay on a stained couch while flies flew over his twisted, uncovered legs.

 

When she took the lid off a plastic container to show her last bag of flour, a cockroach crawled out, making her jump back and scream.

 

“This is so tough,” she said. “I don’t have a job. I don’t have any money.”

 

Salcedo used to sell baked goods and juices to neighbors from the window of her kitchen. Then, her fridge broke down and she couldn’t find the money to fix it.

 

These days, she relies on the kindness of neighbors, or asks a friend who owns a small food shop for credit while she waits for loans from family members in other parts of Venezuela.

 

“This country has never been as bad,” the 28-year-old said. “Just buying some rice or flour is something so hard, so expensive, and often, they don’t even have any.”

 

A few days later, thieves broke into the soup kitchen and stole food. Then, a fire broke out in the slum, burning 17 homes to the ground. It was caused by candles that were apparently being used for light after a power outage — an almost everyday occurrence in many parts of Venezuela. Opposition lawmaker Manuela Bolivar, whose Nodriza Project runs the soup kitchen, said that when firefighters arrived, they lacked water and had to put out the blaze with dirt.

 

“It’s a social earthquake,” Bolivar said. “They lose their homes. They’re left in the open air. The soup kitchen was robbed. It’s so many adversities: It’s the infections, the lack of water and food.”

At an outdoor market a short distance from Petare in the middle-class district of Los Dos Caminos, Carmen Gimenez shopped for carrots and other vegetables for a stew. When her 14-year-old daughter Camila asked if they could take some other products, she told her that they would have to stick to the basics.

 

Although she has a job at a bank, she still struggles to make ends meet.

 

“It doesn’t matter where you live. The need is the same,” said Gimenez, 43.

 

“The poor, the rich, and the middle class — we’re all suffering somehow because the government has leveled us all downwards,” she adds with anger. “How did they dominate us? Through the stomach.”

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Ukraine’s Night Train to the Front Lines

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Ukraine is gearing up for presidential elections at the end of this month, a vote that holds huge implications for a country still at war with Russian-backed separatists. There are other issues on the agenda too – not least getting around this vast country. The dilapidated infrastructure means long night trains are the only practical transport. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell jumped on board to chat with some of the passengers heading east.

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In End of 20th Century Fox, a New Era Dawns for Hollywood

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The Fox Studio backlot, first built in 1926 on a Culver City ranch in Los Angeles, was enormous. Before much of it was sold off in the 1960s, it was four times the size of its current, and still huge, 53 acres.

 

Shirley Temple’s bungalow still sits on the lot, as does the piano where John Williams composed, among other things, the score to “Star Wars.” A waiter in the commissary might tell you where Marilyn Monroe once regularly sat.

 

When the Walt Disney Co.’s $71.3 billion acquisition of Fox is completed at 12:02 a.m. Wednesday, the storied lot — the birthplace of CinemaScope, “The Sound of Music” and “Titanic” — will no longer house one of the six major studios. It will become the headquarters for Rupert Murdoch’s new Fox Corp., (he is keeping Fox News and Fox Broadcasting) and Fox’s film operations, now a Disney label, will stay on for now as renters under a seven-year lease agreement.

 

The history of Hollywood is littered with changes of studio ownership; even Fox Film Corporation founder William Fox, amid the Depression, lost control of the studio that still bears his name. But the demise of 20th Century Fox as a standalone studio is an epochal event in Hollywood, one that casts long shadows over a movie industry grappling with new digital competitors from Silicon Valley and facing the possibility of further contraction. After more than eight decades of supremacy, the Big Six are down one.

 

“It’s a sad day for students of film history and I think it’s potentially a sad day for audiences too,” said Tom Rothman, former chairman of Fox and the current chief of Sony Pictures. “There will just be less diversity in the marketplace.”

 

Disney’s acquisition has endless repercussions but it’s predicated largely on positioning Disney — already the market-leader in Hollywood — for the future. Disney, girding for battle with Netflix, Apple and Amazon, needs more content for its coming streaming platform, Disney+, and it wants control of its content across platforms.

“The pace of disruption has only hastened,” Disney chief Robert A. Iger said when the deal was first announced. “This will allow us to greatly accelerate our director-to-consumer strategy.”

 

The Magic Kingdom will add 20th Century Fox alongside labels like Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm. But film production at Fox, which has in recent years released 12-17 films a year, is expected to wane. Due to duplication with Disney staff, layoffs will be in the thousands.

 

Disney will also take over FX, NatGeo and a controlling stake in Hulu, which has more than 20 million customers. It will gain control of some of the largest franchises in movies, including “Avatar,” “Alien” and “The Planet of the Apes.” Fox’s television studios also net Disney the likes of “Modern Family,” “This Is Us” and “The Simpsons.” Homer, meet Mickey.

 

Some parts of Fox, like the John Landgraf-led FX and Fox Searchlight, the specialty label overseen by Stephen Gilula and Nancy Utley, are expected to be kept largely intact. Searchlight, the regular Oscar contender behind films such as “12 Years a Slave,” “The Shape of Water” and “The Favourite,” could yield Disney something it’s never had before: a best picture winner at the Academy Awards.

 

Nowhere is the culture clash between the companies more apparent than in “Deadpool,” Fox’s gleefully profane R-rated superhero. While Spider-Man still resides with Sony, Disney now adds Deadpool, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four to its bench of Marvel characters. How they will all fit with Disney’s PG-13 mission remains to be seen, though Iger last month suggested in a conference call with investors that there may be room for an R-rated Marvel brand as long as audiences know what’s coming.

 

The question of how or if Disney will inherit Fox’s edginess matters because Fox has long built itself on big bets and technological gambits. It was the first studio built for sound. It was nearly bankrupted by the big-budget Elizabeth Taylor epic “Cleopatra.” It backed Cameron’s seemingly-ill-fated “Titanic,” as well as Ang Lee’s “The Life of Pi” and the Oscar-winning hit “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

 

“We were a studio of risk and innovation,” says Rothman, who also founded Fox Searchlight. “It was a very daring place, creatively. That’s what the movies should be.”

 

But will the more button-down Disney have the stomach for such movies? “Deadpool” creator Robert Liefeld, for example, has said Fox’s plans for an X-Force movie have been tabled, a “victim of the merger.”

 

Some were surprised regulators gave the deal relatively quick approval. The Department of Justice approved the acquisition in about six months, about four times less than the time it took investigating AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner. The New York Times editorial page suggested the deal benefited from President Trump’s relationship with Murdoch.

 

“Disney will have probably north of 40 percent market share in the U.S. That’s one area where a deal does suggest that the market influence is going to be outsized,” says Tuna Amobi, a media and entertainment analyst with investment firm CFRA. “Having one studio control that much is unprecedented. And it could increase from there given the pipeline that we see.”

Disney is about to have more influence on the movies Americans and the rest of the world see than any company ever has. Last year, it had 26 percent of the U.S. market with just 10 movies which together grossed more than $3 billion domestically and $7.3 billion worldwide. Fox usually counts for about 12 percent of market share.

 

Fewer studios could potentially mean fewer movies. That’s a concern for both consumers and theater owners, many of whom already rely heavily on Disney blockbusters to sell tickets and popcorn.

 

“Certainly, consolidation poses a challenge in some respects to the supply of movies,” says John Fithian, president and chief executive of the National Organization of Theater Owners. “The fewer suppliers you have, the chances are we’re going to get fewer movies from those suppliers.”

 

But Fithian believes other companies are stepping into the breach, and he holds out hope that Netflix might eventually embrace more robust theatrical release. More importantly, Fox was bought by a company in Disney that is, as Fithian said, “the biggest supporter of the theatrical window.”

 

Still, Disney has been willing to throw its weight around. Ahead of the release of “The Last Jedi,” the studio insisted on more onerous terms from some theater owners, including a higher percentage of ticket sales.

 

More experimentation in distribution is coming. Later this year, WarnerMedia, whose Warner Bros. is regularly second in market share to Disney, will launch its own streaming platform. Apple is ramping up movie production. Amazon Studios is promising bigger, more attention-getting projects.

 

Ahead of a blizzard of new streaming options, Fox — and a giant piece of film history — will fade into an ever-expanding Disney world. Film historian Michael Troyan, author of “20th Century Fox: A Century of Entertainment,” has studied enough of Hollywood’s past to know that relentless change is an innate part of the business.

 

“It’s sad when any historical empire like that comes to end,” says Michael Troyan. “You can record in other places but when you’re on a lot like Fox, you feel the gravitas, you feel the history.”

 

Rothman says he will pause for a “wistful moment” Wednesday, but he believes consolidation doesn’t mean obsolescence.

 

“I don’t think it remotely arguers the end of the glories of the film business overall,” says Rothman. “I believe there remains eternal appetite for original, vibrant, creative theatrical storytelling.”

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Radovan Karadzic Faces Final Verdict in War Crimes Case

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United Nations appeals judges on Wednesday hand down a final verdict in the case of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, a key figure in the Balkan wars who is serving a 40-year prison sentence for genocide.

The ruling will likely bring to a close one of the highest profile trials stemming from the series of wars in the 1990s that saw the bloody collapse of the former Yugoslavia and death of at least 100,000 Bosnians.

Karadzic, 73, was convicted in 2016 for the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces. He was also found guilty of leading a campaign of ethnic cleansing that drove Croats and Muslims out of Serb-claimed areas of Bosnia.

On appeal, prosecutors are seeking a life sentence and a second genocide conviction for his alleged role in that policy of targeting non-Serbs across several Bosnian towns in the early years of the war. Karadzic meanwhile is appealing against his conviction and wants a retrial.

The ruling, which is final and cannot be challenged on appeal, will have huge resonance in the former Yugoslavia, especially in Bosnia, where ethnic communities remain divided and Karadzic is still seen as a hero by many Bosnian Serbs.

The judgment will be read out at 14:00 local time (13:00 GMT) in The Hague at a U.N. court handling cases left over when the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia closed its doors in 2017.

A delegation of the association of Mothers of Srebrenica will be in the Netherlands for the judgment.

In hiding for nearly a decade, Karadzic was arrested and handed over to the court in July 2008.

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Україна відзначила італійських волонтерів за гуманітарну допомогу на Донбасі

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За гуманітарну допомогу на Донбасі двоє італійських волонтерів отримали відзнаку президента України. Церемонія вручення нагород відбулася 19 березня в посольстві України в Римі, інформує кореспондент Радіо Свобода.

У лютому 2016 року громадяни Італії Джованні Д’Урсо й Вінченцо Ґуерра у складі громадської асоціації Ucraini Irpini з південного міста Авелліно на чолі з активісткою Оксаною Библів здійснили гуманітарну поїздку на Донбас до міста Мар’їнки. Вони доставили машину «швидкої допомоги», ліки, продукти і подарунки для дітей-сиріт, пенсіонерів і військових.

«Це був унікальний і сильний досвід, ми поїхали на передову і передавали воєнним машину. Щойно закінчили оформлення документації – і чуємо недалеко вибух бомби. Мене дуже вразило, як молоді бійці українського війська наввипередки виявляли готовність потрапити у загін, щоб вирушити на місце події для протидії ворожій акції. На мене, колишнього військового, це справило сильне враження: як молодь, знаючи про небезпеку, рветься захищати рідний край», – розповів Джованні Д’Урсо.

За його словами, волонтери стали свідками, як машина «швидкої» відразу була використана за призначенням для порятунку українських армійців.

Інший учасник поїздки Вінченцо Ґуерра повідомив про бажання повернутися на Донбас і додав, що наразі асоціація займається пошуком нової машини «швидкої допомоги» та речей, необхідних для фронту. Він також має намір зробити нові світлини у зоні бойових дій з метою влаштувати в Італії фотовиставку «Війна в серці Європи» у рамках проектів місцевої асоціації Ucraini Irpini.

«Війна йде за кілька кроків від нас, і про це тут не говорять, я хочу, щоб люди дізналися і побачили, що відбувається у тій частині Європи», – сказав Вінченцо Ґуерра.

Протягом п’яти років воєнної агресії на Донбасі у зону бойових дій доставляють гуманітарні вантажі й інші італійські волонтери спільно з українськими активістами. Деякі з них невдовзі також отримають відзнаки від України, повідомили дипломати в Римі.

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Поліція заявляє, що зупинила сутичку під час візиту Порошенка в Івано-Франківськ

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На мітинг, де мав виступати Порошенко, прийшли представники «Національного корпусу» і «Національних дружин» – місцеве видання