Home' Greymouth Star : April 29th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
8 - Wednesday, April 29, 2015
One of Boris Lisitsyn’s happiest
memories is of being swept by a huge,
joyous crowd through the streets of
Moscow and on to Red Square in
spontaneous celebrations when World
War Two ended in Europe.
He was too young to fight but, like
most Russians, sees the defeat of
Nazi Germany in 1945 as one of his
nation’s great achievements, albeit as
part of the Soviet Union.
“I remember the end of the war so
well. It was such an all-embracing joy,
when people poured on to the streets
with bottles, with songs, half-drunk,”
the 86-year-old pensioner said in his
apartment on the outskirts of the
“Everyone went, intuitively, to Red
Square, to the centre. There were so
many people. Any soldier, any soldier
was swung in their arms, people sang
to them, ‘You guys are great ’!”
He is less enthusiastic when asked
about plans by western leaders not to
attend a military parade on Moscow ’s
Red Square on May 9 marking the
70th anniversary of the victory in
“ It is of course not nice,” Lisitsyn
said quietly, before adding with a
shrug: “ They have the right to do so. ”
The western boycott is intended
to show displeasure over President
government forces in east Ukraine.
But many Russians see the snub as
disrespect for their country’s heavy
wartime losses, intended to undermine
the significance of Moscow ’s role in
winning the war.
Putin has not only whipped
up patriotism as the anniversary
approaches, but has used the boycott
to fan the anti-western sentiment
that has helped unite people behind
him and distract them from their
He has accused the United States
of putting pressure on allies not
to attend the parade and accused
“enemies” of rewriting
history to play down the significance
of Moscow ’s role in defeating Nazi
“Their goal is obvious: to undermine
Russia’s power and moral authority
to divide peoples and set them
against each other and use historical
speculation in their geopolitical
games,” he said last month.
The guest list for the military parade
has come to embody Russia’s place
in the world as it struggles to avoid
being isolated over the events in east
Since western powers imposed
economic sanctions on Russia last
year, Moscow has accelerated attempts
to build ties with Asia, Africa and
South America, as well as warming
up relations with its former Soviet-era
US President Barack Obama and
European leaders are staying away but
Chinese President Xi Jinping, North
Korea’s Kim Jong-un and the heads
of many former Soviet republics —
some of them autocratic rulers — are
expected to attend.
Relations have soured to such an
extent that Konstantin Kosachev, head
of the upper house of parliament ’s
foreign affairs committee, said, “ They
(the west) would have tried to spoil our
70th anniversary victory celebration in
It is a contrast to the 60th anniversary
events in 2005, attended by the US,
French and German leaders of the
time — George W Bush, Jacques
Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel
will skip the parade but is expected
to pay respects at a Moscow war
memorial the next day and her
foreign minister will go on May 7
to Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad,
where Soviet forces won a decisive
Poroshenko will not attend. Trust
is so low that Kiev will have tens of
thousands of police on guard for fear
of an attack by separatists or Russian
agents during its own World War Two
In Russia, blockbuster war films
have hit cinemas and anniversary
photographs and posters are plastered
across Moscow to honour the Soviet
victims of World War Two, widely
estimated at 27 million people.
Some State television presenters
wear the St George ribbon, a 19th
century bravery award that is worn
in Russia to show patriotism over the
There is little doubt this will help
keep Putin’s popularity ratings at
the high levels they have seen since
Russia annexed Crimea last year, six
decades after Soviet leader Nikita
Khrushchev gifted the Black Sea
peninsula to Ukraine, then part of
the Soviet Union.
But some worry that State media,
now showing constant war films in
addition to war footage from east
Ukraine, are fuelling aggression and
“ I sincerely support Putin in calling
for peace in Ukraine,”Dmitry Muratov,
editor-in-chief of the investigative
newspaper Novaya Gazeta, said of the
president ’s assurances that he wants
the conflict to end in east Ukraine.
“ But this atmosphere of violence
and poison in the country is also his
Some western commentators and
officials regret a chance has been
missed by the west to build bridges
ambassador to Russia John Tefft
underlined this month that
Washington still valued highly the
co-operation with Moscow during
World War Two.
“In America we’ve not forgotten that
legacy,” he told a conference, adding
that better mutual understanding
remained a critical goal “today more
For elderly Russians, the constant
evocation of war and a common
enemy recalls a tactic used by the
Soviet Communist leadership to unite
“Since the end of the war, 70 years
have passed. For all those 70 years,
whatever leaders we had, it ’s always
been the same ideologically — war,
war, war,” Lisitsyn said.
“They need to remind us because
they need to keep people in a state of
tension . . . and this is a way to distract
Asked what he will be doing on May
9, he lifted a bottle and said: “Maybe
some friends will come over.”
Russians fume over west’s war anniversary snub
Forest fire rages near Chernobyl nuclear site
A helicopter drops water as an aerial view shows smoke from a forest fire raging in northern Ukraine.
A forest fire has broken out
near the Chernobyl plant
in Ukraine, the scene of the
world’s worst civil nuclear
disaster in 1986, but poses no
danger to the site.
“The fire is at a distance of
15 to 20km from Chernobyl,”
a spokeswoman for the plant,
Maya Rudenko, said, adding
there was “no problem” there.
However, Interior Minister
Arsen Avakov warned “the
high flames and sudden gusts
of wind mean there is a serious
risk that the fire could spread”.
The area around Chernobyl
was evacuated after the 1986
blast and the last reactor there
shut down in 2000 but some
personnel still operate in the
exclusion zone, where work is
under way to lay a new seal over
the reactor site.
Avakov said the fire had
spread over some 400ha near
the plant, which lies about
100km from the Ukrainian
About 200 firefighters with
scores of vehicles were battling
the inferno and aircraft were
dumping water on the flames,
the State emergency ser vices
A State nuclear inspection
official says that “the level of
radiation at the Chernobyl
plant has not changed”.
The fire comes just days after
Ukrainians marked 29 years
since the Chernobyl nuclear
The explosion of reactor No
4 on April 26, 1986, spewed
poisonous radiation over large
parts of Europe, particularly
Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.
The human toll of the disaster
is still disputed. United Nations
experts officially recognised 31
deaths among plant workers
and firefighters directly linked
to the blast. But environmental
group Greenpeace has
suggested there could be about
100,000 additional deaths from
cancer caused by the disaster.
The Soviet authorities of the
time dispatched hundreds of
thousands of people to put
out the fire and clean the site,
without proper protection.
They hastily laid over the
reactor site a concrete cover
dubbed “the sarcophagus”,
which is now cracking and
must be replaced.
Ukraine’s President Petro
Poroshenko on Sunday
inspected ongoing work on a
new 20,000-tonne steel cover
— a project estimated to cost
more than two billion euros
It is financed by international
donations managed by
the European Bank for
The structure will contain
technology that will act beneath
the cover to decontaminate
the area once the steel layer is
in place. Officials say the new
cover will last for 100 years.
Eight drug-trafficking convicts from several
countries were executed by an Indonesian
firing squad early today, local media said, but
a Filipina who was on death row with them
was unexpectedly spared at the last minute.
confirmation from Indonesia the eight men
had been executed, though a lawyer for two
Australians among the group said they had
both been shot dead.
The Brazilian government also confirmed
one of its citizens had been killed as well,
saying it was shocked by the second execution
of a Brazilian in Indonesia in three months
despite President Dilma Rousseff ’s personal
Earlier, Jakarta rejected last-ditch pleas
from around the world for clemency to be
granted to the drug traffickers from Nigeria,
Australia, Brazil and Indonesia, ordering
their mass execution to proceed within hours.
A spokesman for the Attorney-General’s
Office said it had delayed the execution of
Mary Jane Veloso, a housemaid and mother
of two who was arrested in 2010 after she
arrived in Indonesia with 2.6kg of heroin
hidden in her suitcase.
He said the delay came in response to a
request from Manila after an employment
recruiter, whom Veloso had accused of
planting the drugs in her luggage, gave herself
up to police in the Philippines yesterday.
Supporters holding a vigil for Veloso
outside the Indonesian embassy in Manila
cheered and clapped on hearing the news.
The proposed death penalties strained ties
between Indonesia and other countries, in
particular Australia and Brazil.
Amnesty International said the executions
were “utterly reprehensible”.
“The execution of eight people in Indonesia
today shows complete disregard for due
process and human rights safeguards,” it said
in a statement.
In Australia and around the world,
supporters of those executed expressed
sadness, shock and anger on social media.
“Ham-fisted policy from a medieval
regime,” Twitter user Darren Reid said. “ You
will never get a travel cent from me.”
Virgin tycoon Richard Branson, who has
campaigned against the death penalty for
drugs offences, said he was shattered by the
executions despite calls for clemency.
Hours before the expected executions,
crowds had gathered in cities across Australia
to hold vigils for Myuran Sukumaran and
Andrew Chan, holding placards and calling
for Australia to respond strongly to its
neighbour over the executions.
Authorities on Monday granted Australian
Chan’s final wish, which was to marry his
Indonesian girlfriend at the prison.
But they rejected last-minute appeals from
Australia to save the lives of Sukumaran
and Chan, who were arrested in 2005 as the
ringleaders of a plot to smuggle heroin out of
Australia-Indonesia relations have been
tested in recent years by disputes over people
smuggling and spying. In late 2013 Indonesia
recalled its envoy and froze military and
intelligence co-operation over reports that
Canberra had spied on top Indonesian
officials, including the former president ’s
Indonesia has harsh punishments for drug
crimes and resumed executions in 2013 after
a five-year gap. Six have been executed so far
this year. — Reuters
Indonesia executes drug kingpins
McCanns win damages from ex-investigator
A Portuguese court ruled overnight that a
former investigator of the 2007 disappearance
of Madeleine McCann pay 500,000 euros
($709,984) damages to her parents for
alleging in a book that the girl had died in an
accident and the McCanns had covered it up.
The Civil Court of Lisbon also banned all
sales and reprints of the 2008 book by ex-
police inspector Goncalo Amaral, Maddie
— The Truth about Lies, and a video based on
it, a court official said. It had earlier ruled that
Amaral had caused damage to the McCanns
with his book.
The court said Amaral had the professional
obligation to keep his thoughts about the
investigation to himself immediately after
his retirement in 2008 and had no right to
express controversial opinions “as if they were
His defence can still appeal against the
verdict, which also involves interest on the
Madeleine, then three, went missing from
her bedroom at the Praia da Luz holiday
resort in the Algar ve region while her
parents were dining with friends at a nearby
restaurant, leading to a global search that
drew international attention.
Portuguese police initially declared the
parents suspects, but they were cleared in
2008 and the investigation was closed.
They received damages and front-page
apologies in 2008 from several British
tabloids for allegations that they had been
involved in the disappearance.
After British police began their own
inquiry in 2013, saying they believed the girl
might still be alive, Portuguese prosecutors
reopened the investigation saying new leads
had emerged in the case. No charges have
been made. — Reuters
WHO draws up plan to eradicate Ebola
The World Health Organisation has
unveiled a plan to eradicate the deadly Ebola
virus, aiming to identify and isolate the
dwindling number of new cases by the end
In its new plan, the United Nations
health agency stressed the importance of
maintaining the massive efforts to rid the
worst-affected nations — Guinea, Liberia
and Sierra Leone — of the viral disease, cases
of which have already fallen sharply.
“There is still a considerable effort required
to stop all chains of transmission in the
affected countries, prevent the spread of the
disease to neighbouring countries and to
safely reactivate life-saving essential health
ser vices,” WHO said.
According to the latest numbers, about
26,300 people have so far been infected with
the virus, and nearly 10,900 have died.
The WHO’s 28-page strategic response
plan announced overnight is a follow-up on
the roadmap it launched last August as the
Ebola virus began spreading exponentially.
At the time, just over 3000 cases and 1500
deaths had been tallied, but the UN agency
warned the caseload could top 20,000.
While those fears have been surpassed,
WHO said the unprecedented global push to
rein in the virus had proved successful.
In recent months only a few dozen new
confirmed cases have been registered each
week, compared to the peaks of over 800
cases per week in October.
Liberia, once the hardest-hit country, has
reported no new cases of Ebola since the end
of March, and appears to be on track to be
declared Ebola free in early May
But the WHO has warned the fight will
not be over until the deadly virus has been
completely eradicated. — AFP
Nigeria rescues almost 300 from Boko Haram
About 230 people were killed,
including at least 74 from
Niger, at the weekend in the
country’s bloodiest battle yet
with Boko Haram militants
from neighbouring Nigeria, the
government said overnight.
Niger soldiers were initially
over whelmed when hundreds of
the militants attacked the Lake
Chad island of Karamga at dawn
on Saturday aboard motorised
The island, attacked once before
by Boko Haram in February, is
prized by both sides as a strategic
base among a vast maze of
water ways and swampland. The
army said it has since wrested it
back from the guerrillas.
“On the side of our forces: 46
dead, 9 injured, 32 missing. On
the enemy ’s side, 156 terrorists
were killed. In addition, 28
residents of the island were
assassinated by the terrorists,”
Massoudou said on State radio.
Niger forces had initially held
back from giving a death toll as
they searched for bodies among
the mangroves. It declared
three days of national mourning
The attack comes despite
significant military victories by
Nigeria and regional allies Niger,
Chad and Cameroon in winning
back territory from Boko Haram
in northern Nigeria.
Nigeria’s army said earlier it had
rescued 200 girls and 93 women
during a military operation to
take back control of the Sambisa
Forest from the Boko Haram
militant Islamist group.
But the more than 200
schoolgirls abducted from their
school dormitories by Boko
Haram militants last year are
not among the nearly 300 girls
and women rescued in an army
operation yesterday, an army
“The troops rescued 200
abducted girls (not Chibok girls)
and 93 women,” Colonel Sani
Usman said in a text message.
Boko Haram claimed the
abduction of 276 girls from a
secondary school in Chibok, also
in Borno, on April 14 of last year.
within hours of the attack but
219 remained in captivity.
Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar
Shekau, vowed to “marry them
off ” or sell them as “slaves.”
Boko Haram has also been
blamed for hundreds of other
kidnappings. — AFP-Reuters
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