28/04/2014 World News Today


28/04/2014

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This is BBC World News Today with me, Kasia Madera. An exclusive

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report inside Syria's biggest city, Aleppo, much of it now a ghost town

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after months of bombardment by the Assad regime. The focus of

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residents: in the last few minutes, there have been two bombs strikes in

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this neighbourhood. Emergency services have just arrived. This man

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- head of Russia's oil giant Rosneft - is among individuals hit by new US

:00:52.:00:54.

sanctions over Moscow's actions in Ukraine. And as pro-Russian

:00:55.:00:57.

militants tighten their grip on towns in eastern Ukraine, the mayor

:00:58.:01:00.

of Kharkiv is shot and critically injured. Also coming up... Anguish

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in Egypt as a judge recommends the death penalty for almost 700

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supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, including its leader.

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And winds that sounded like a freight train - tornadoes sweep

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parts of the US, leaving 16 dead. Hello and welcome. We begin in

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Syria, where thousands of people are reported to have been killed or

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maimed in a campaign of aerial bombardment in the north this year.

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The pressure group Human Rights Watch accuses President Assad's

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forces of terrorising Aleppo, with what it calls an "indiscriminate and

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unlawful air war against civilians" - in particular through the use of

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crude barrel bombs, thrown over the side of helicopters. A BBC team has

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had rare access into Aleppo. Correspondent Ian Pannell and

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cameraman Darren Conway spent four days there - the only western

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broadcasters to have visited the rebel-held city since last year.

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They have now crossed the border to Turkey. You may find parts of their

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report upsetting. Engulfed by darkness and fear, the

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heart of Syria's biggest city. But life has become so dangerous that

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drivers must turn off their lights to avoid attack from above. And even

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in the dead of night, the war grinds on. The government insists it is

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protecting people, targeting terrorists based in residential

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areas. But often, it is civilians who are hit. Everyone keeps an eye

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on the sky, looking for helicopters armed with barrel bombs that are

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tossed to the ground. They are indiscriminate and devastating.

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Whenever they land, it is the civil defence force that comes to the

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rescue. Their job is as grim as it is dangerous. Rushing in, sometimes

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under fire, to free the injured and recover the dead. Barrel bombs are

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believed to have killed hundreds of people in Aleppo this year, maiming

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many more. This video from the Aleppo media centre is

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extraordinary. The defence force desperately claw at debris. A young

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boy has been buried. His limbs are freed. It is not clear if he is

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alive. Suddenly, there is movement. And this nine-year-old is rescued.

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This was Syria's economic heartland. Today, it is a decrepit shell of its

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former self. The bombardment rarely stops, and the emergency team head

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out again. TRANSLATION: We are doing this because our people need help

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and rescuing, someone to land them a hand. Of course I will not leave

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this job, I merely want to save civilians. Driving through a maze of

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streets, residents shout directions to the bomb site. Unaware, the team

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head straight into a front line position. And a government sniper

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takes aim. This is perhaps the most dangerous job in one of the world's

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most dangerous cities. We were in Aleppo when the fighting started.

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Today, much of this vast, ancient city has been ravaged by a

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relentless civil war. Whole districts lie almost abandoned,

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scarred by a war that has displaced 40% of the population and killed

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what is thought to be more than 150,000. In the last few minutes,

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there have been two bomb strikes in this residential neighbourhood. Much

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of it has been abandoned. At the moment, the emergency services have

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just arrived. The men from the civil defence force have gone into this

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area to see if there are any civilians who have been injured or

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even worse, killed. A barrel bomb has landed on this small street.

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Killing a four-year-old boy and injuring others. There were no

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fighters here, just residents, cowering from a helicopter.

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TRANSLATION: We heard the first blast, and I asked my husband to go

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and get the kids off the street, and suddenly, it hit us. It was like

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someone picked me up and threw me inside. Do you have anywhere to go?

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I have nowhere to go, I just want my husband back and nothing else. Tens

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of thousands have fled Aleppo this year. Most live in makeshift camps,

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huddled near the border. There are no signs of an end to this war, and

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Syrians feel shunned by what they see as the indifference of the

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outside world. Defenceless in the face of incessant attacks, and with

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little hope of either respite or relief.

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Our chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet is with

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me. Some really difficult images here and we asked the question, when

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will this end? What is your assessment? Most Syrians would say

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to you, they never expected this war to last so long and be so brutal. On

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both sides, many are saying that an unjust peace is better than an

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unjust war, but there is no sign that the war is ending. In Aleppo,

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the war is an ten surviving and in Damascus last week, there were

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warnings there were more and better weapons going in. The government is

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fortifying its positions and sending in more weapons. In many other parts

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of the country, the war is intensifying, although there are a

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large part, including around Damascus where the government has

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recaptured areas, so much so, that President Assad recently spoke of

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the turning point in the war. It may be too early, but the government

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feels it is consolidating its hold in some parts of the country. He

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seems more confident, he has even announced he will be standing in the

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presidential elections. Even the most ardent supporters of the

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government would not say they are winning. Everyone acknowledges the

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high price the country has paid for this conflict, but they are

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confident enough to send the message of holding a presidential election

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on June the 3rd. President Assad is seeking a third term and there is no

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doubt he will win. Many will say this is not a legitimate exercise,

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but his supporters will say it is legitimate. Syrians are paying the

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price, 150,000 are believed killed, 40% of the population displaced.

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When they come back, they will come back to devastated cities. We know

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the figures are increasing on a daily basis. People are dying every

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day in Syria. We don't have figures on those who are wounded and

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traumatised, like the children in the report. They have delivered

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either with the injuries or the traumatic situations they have been

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in for the rest of their lives. The whole country is traumatised by the

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war, even in areas like Damascus which looked normal on the surface.

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Everyone has been affected, everyone has a story. Everyone has lost

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someone or fears they will lose someone. In Aleppo, we have seen the

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government increasing its use of weapons like the barrel bombs, which

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are indiscriminate and extremely powerful.

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Now to the continuing tension in Ukriane. The United States has given

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details of further economic sanctions against Russia. The White

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House has accused Moscow of failing to uphold an international agreement

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aimed at resolving the crisis in Ukraine. The announcement comes

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after the mayor of Kharkiv, a city in eastern Ukraine, was shot and

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critically wounded. Our world affairs correspondent Emily Buchanan

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reports. A warm spring day in Sloviansk - it

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looks so peaceful, but this town in eastern Ukraine is on the front line

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of a deepening battle. Pro-Russian separatists are entrenched in the

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city's administration building. Already termed prisoners of war by

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Russian TV, seven international monitors are being held hostage in

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Sloviansk. One was earlier released on health grounds, but the

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Ukrainians in their group have disappeared. The US and EU has now

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announced new sanctions against some influential Russians. There is a

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path here to resolve this, but Russia has not yet chosen to move

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forward and these sanctions represent the next stage in a

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calibrated effort to change Russia's behaviour. Russia is already paying

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a serious price for its actions, and the longer it breaches the

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independence and sovereignty of Ukraine, the heavier the price it

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will pay, undermining its own influence in its neighbourhood,

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steadily disconnecting Russia from the international community and

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damaging Russia's own prosperity and security over the long-term.

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Frustration is also building inside Ukraine among supporters of the Kiev

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government. This was Kharkiv in the East over the weekend. Now unknown

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gunmen have shot and critically wounded the mayor of Kharkiv,

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Hennadiy Kernes. Once pro-Russian, he has become largely loyal to Kiev.

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In Donetsk, the local TV station was seized by separatists and is now

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once again showing Russian programmes. They had been blocked by

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Kiev. The rebels appear unstoppable. Armed gunmen have taken over the

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town hall and police headquarters of another city, Kostiantynivka. Each

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day, their grip on eastern Ukraine strengthens and worries grow of a

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full-scale Russian incursion. Four RAF Typhoon aircraft were deployed

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today to Lithuania. They will boost NATO patrols, with the aim to

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reassure anxious allies at a time of rising tension with Russia. Emily

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Buchanan, BBC News. Let's take a look at some of the

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seven Russian individuals the US has imposed sanctions on. Igor Sechin,

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head of state oil company Rosneft. He's been described as Vladimir

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Putin's Lieutenant and was Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian

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Federation from 2008 until 2012. Alexei Pushkov, a member of

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parliament and chair of the international affairs committee of

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the Russian parliament's lower house. The current Russian Deputy

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Prime Minister, Dmitry Kozak. And Sergei Chemezov, another Putin ally

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- who's Chief Executive of the state-owned holding firm Rostec. In

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a moment we'll hear from David Stern in Kiev. But first let's hear from

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our correspondent in Washington, Barbara Plett-Usher. It looks like

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this latest set of sanctions is closing in on the inner circle of

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Vladimir Putin's allies. So the calculation seems to be that by

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targeting those close to President Putin, they will put direct pressure

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on him and possibly that will help create a change of course. So far,

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the response from Russia has not indicated that. Officials have

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responded, raging from anger to dismissal, saying the more pressures

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you put on Russia, the more the elite will consolidate. There is the

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question of how much pressure this will bring to bear. The head of the

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main Russian oil company there, his assets have been frozen, but the

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company has not. So it is business as usual so far as traders are

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concerned with the oil company. President Obama did acknowledge that

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he couldn't say for sure this new round of sanctions would have any

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affect. The previous ones haven't. What American officials argue is

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they are making a calibrated effort to put the squeeze on the economy

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and they have tougher measures up their sleeves if this doesn't work.

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This was shortly after the mayor was shot.

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He drped his support in -- dropped his support in favour of a united

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Ukraine. It is too simplistic to say he just supports Kiev. That is

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right. He came out with statements against the former President. He has

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said he's for a united Ukraine. He is a controversial and very complex

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person. This also adds to the uncertainty or the lack of clarity

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about what exactly happened in Kharkiv today. Any attempt to shoot

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a top political figure and he is a very important political figure. He

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is the Mayor of the largest city in the east. That adds to the chaos in

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the east. It also adds to the up certainty of what is going on.

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Nobody knows what the motive was and why he was targeted.

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And David, just very briefly, what is the latest on the OSCE observers?

:16:58.:17:04.

Well, at the moment there's been no change. Of course we've seen one of

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the observers released, apparently for health reasons. The seven

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military observers from OSCE countries and their five Ukrainian

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escorts are still in custody. Apparently the talks are on going.

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The pro-Russian separatists are holding them. It is not clear what

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it will take to get them released. Both of you, thank you very much. We

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will continue to monitor all of that for you. Now, let's move on. An

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Egyptian court has recommended the death penalty for almost 700 alleged

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Islamists, including the lead ore the banned Muslim Brotherhood,

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Mohammed Badie. They were convicted over riots last August. The court

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confirmed death sentences for 37 other, whose trial on similar

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charges were widely condemned internationally. The verdicts can be

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appealed. From outside the court in Minya we have this report. Anxious

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outside the -- anguish outside the court. Several women overcome by

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shock, after the judge recommended the death penalty for almost 700

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men. It is a devastating verdict. My son has done nothing this mother

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said. He and others were convicted in a mass trial, which finished in

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hours. This woman asked God to take revenge on the security forces. They

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remained impassive. For relatives, there was a double

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blow. The court upheld 37 death sentences passed last month.

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There are extraordinary scenes here. Some of the relatives have been

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collapsing just heard the verdict. It is what they have been dreading:

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They were hoping the death sentences against their loved ones would be

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lifted. Instead almost 40 men have been

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convicted to hang. They were convicted of taking part in riots

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last August, in which a riot officer was killed. The violence was ignited

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when the security forces in Cairo killed hundreds of supporters of the

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ousted President, Mohamed Morsi. This man was convicted of rioting,

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although he can't even walk. He relies on a wheelchair because of

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polio. His death sentence was commuted today, like almost 500

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others, but he got life in jail. His wife says their three young sons

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keep asking when daddy is coming home.

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Our life is pointless without him, she says. Since he's been gone, the

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children don't want to do anything, not even play. Back at the court, a

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father cries out to God for help. The international community will be

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watching closely. Critics may wonder just where Egypt

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is heading. Let's discuss these death sentences

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with Dr H.A. Hellyer, an associate associate fellow of the US project

:20:29.:20:37.

on the Islamic world at Brookings. He joins us from Cairo. 683 death

:20:38.:20:49.

verdicts are preliminary. You they will be upheld? I don't it very wuch

:20:50.:20:54.

much. They will be -- very much. They will be sent to the office.

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Following that the court has to issue a verdict. It is very unlikely

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they will uphold 683. Even if they do, the court then has to go to the

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next court. Keeping in mind most of these cases involve people who are

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not actually there. Any of them that which show up are then given the

:21:18.:21:22.

opportunity for a retrial. And at the Court of Appeal, if it gets that

:21:23.:21:27.

far, one suspects and most legal experts in the country seem to

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agree, the sentences will not be upheld. We saw in the other case,

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because it is very complicated, but there were two cases. We saw 37

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death sentences in the other case. They were upheld. I mean, this is a

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legal point. Upheld implies they were sent to appeal and then the

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appeal released it as such. This is not the case. The decisions were

:21:50.:21:55.

sent to the office. The confidential opinion was given, which has not

:21:56.:21:59.

been released and the court itself then issued a verdict. Now that

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verdict is going off to the court and after that it is able to go to

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the Court of Appeal. Here also lies another legal issue under the new

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constitution, passed this year, even this particular verdict actually

:22:16.:22:20.

could be sent to the Court of Appeal directly before going to the next

:22:21.:22:24.

court. So, yes, I am not saying this is a very, very troubling verdict,

:22:25.:22:28.

but it does mean that there are a number of different ways that,

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legally speaking, even under this judicial system, the sentences could

:22:33.:22:38.

and are likely to be overturned. Realistically do these people have

:22:39.:22:41.

access to lawyers? Do they have the kind of clarity in this process?

:22:42.:22:46.

Will they be able to go through this process, difficult legal process and

:22:47.:22:52.

I am sorry, briefly, if you could? I actually don't think it will get to

:22:53.:22:56.

the point where they need to have serious legal representation in

:22:57.:22:59.

order to have their sentences rejected. The judicial system itself

:23:00.:23:04.

is going to take it to the court and I think it is likely to dismiss

:23:05.:23:09.

these sort of sentences. Keeping in mind that the cases you are speaking

:23:10.:23:16.

of today, even the 36, they found their sentences to be death

:23:17.:23:22.

sentences, this was only after a few hour hours of evidence being given

:23:23.:23:25.

and entire court proceedings being done in a couple of hours or so. I

:23:26.:23:29.

find it unlikely that will go through. Dr H.A. Hellyer, thank you

:23:30.:23:34.

for talking us through that complicated situation. Thank you for

:23:35.:23:39.

clarifying it. Thank you. Now other news for you and starting off with

:23:40.:23:43.

Iraq's parliamentary election, early voting has been marred by a string

:23:44.:23:48.

of bombings that targeting polling stations. At least 21 people, mainly

:23:49.:23:52.

security personnel were killed. Security forces, as well as hospital

:23:53.:23:58.

and prison staff have been voting to help the main day of voting go as

:23:59.:24:03.

smoothly as it can on Wednesday. The air operation to find the missing

:24:04.:24:09.

debris from the missing air Malaysiian plane has been called

:24:10.:24:15.

off. The underwater search area has been widen and could take eight

:24:16.:24:19.

months to scour thoroughly. After seven years no confirmed debris from

:24:20.:24:29.

the plane has been found. Now, a powerful tornado in the United

:24:30.:24:32.

States has carved a path of destruction in the state of

:24:33.:24:36.

Arkansas. At least 14 people are known to have died. Ed. The tornado

:24:37.:24:44.

was several produced by a powerful storm system. Cars, trucks and

:24:45.:24:50.

18-wheel lorries were left shed shredded in itself -- shredded in

:24:51.:24:57.

its path. You can see from this why they call

:24:58.:25:08.

them", twisters." ." Barrelling across the horizon, tearing up

:25:09.:25:13.

everything in its path. This is what happened after a twister touched

:25:14.:25:17.

down near the town of Little Rock, Arkansas. Cutting across an

:25:18.:25:23.

interstate free way, to create a path of devastation, 80 miles long.

:25:24.:25:28.

Rescue workers have been going house-to-house in their search for

:25:29.:25:33.

survivors. This three-year-old girl was found

:25:34.:25:38.

100 feet from her home with a badly damaged hip.

:25:39.:25:41.

Several other children didn't make it out alive, after the tornado

:25:42.:25:48.

crushed cars and reduced homes and businesses to match wood. No sirens

:25:49.:25:52.

or anything went off there. I felt the house shake a bit and I heard

:25:53.:25:57.

wind like you would not believe. I got up off my chair and looked out

:25:58.:26:01.

the front window there and saw the twister and all this devastation

:26:02.:26:06.

here coming up. No warning for some because the tornado struck with such

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speed and such force that it wiped out the early warn sirens in one

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Oklahoma town. In Arkansas, a school set to open in August was aamong the

:26:18.:26:25.

building -- among the building ruined. More storms are expected in

:26:26.:26:32.

the Gulf Coast and the mid-West in the next few hours and the tornado

:26:33.:26:39.

season has only just begun. Lots more, as always on our website.

:26:40.:26:44.

From me and the team on World News Today, thank you very much for

:26:45.:26:50.

Hello there. Monday was noticeable for two things. One the intensity of

:26:51.:27:01.

the showers across the southern British Isles, two, the fact it got

:27:02.:27:09.

to 22 Celsius in abbey more, taking it the warmest day so far. On

:27:10.:27:12.

Tuesday things may improve for many of us. It may take some time. Low

:27:13.:27:18.

pressure close by in the Atlantic. We are keeping that unsettled

:27:19.:27:19.

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