28/04/2014 World News Today


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


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


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


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


this neighbourhood. Emergency services have just arrived. This man


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


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


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


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


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


supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, including its leader.


And winds that sounded like a freight train - tornadoes sweep


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


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


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


The pressure group Human Rights Watch accuses President Assad's


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


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


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


had rare access into Aleppo. Correspondent Ian Pannell and


cameraman Darren Conway spent four days there - the only western


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


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


report upsetting. Engulfed by darkness and fear, the


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


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


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


protecting people, targeting terrorists based in residential


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


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


tossed to the ground. They are indiscriminate and devastating.


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


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


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


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


many more. This video from the Aleppo media centre is


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


relentless civil war. Whole districts lie almost abandoned,


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


fighters here, just residents, cowering from a helicopter.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


little hope of either respite or relief.


Our chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet is with


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


large part, including around Damascus where the government has


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


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


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


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


presidential elections. Even the most ardent supporters of the


government would not say they are winning. Everyone acknowledges the


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


confident enough to send the message of holding a presidential election


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


either with the injuries or the traumatic situations they have been


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


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


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


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


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


are indiscriminate and extremely powerful.


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


details of further economic sanctions against Russia. The White


House has accused Moscow of failing to uphold an international agreement


aimed at resolving the crisis in Ukraine. The announcement comes


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


critically wounded. Our world affairs correspondent Emily Buchanan


reports. A warm spring day in Sloviansk - it


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


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


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


Russian TV, seven international monitors are being held hostage in


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


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


announced new sanctions against some influential Russians. There is a


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


forward and these sanctions represent the next stage in a


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


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


independence and sovereignty of Ukraine, the heavier the price it


will pay, undermining its own influence in its neighbourhood,


steadily disconnecting Russia from the international community and


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


Frustration is also building inside Ukraine among supporters of the Kiev


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


gunmen have shot and critically wounded the mayor of Kharkiv,


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


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


once again showing Russian programmes. They had been blocked by


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


parliament and chair of the international affairs committee of


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the response from Russia has not indicated that. Officials have


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


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


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


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


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


concerned with the oil company. President Obama did acknowledge that


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


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


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


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


This was shortly after the mayor was shot.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the observers released, apparently for health reasons. The seven


military observers from OSCE countries and their five Ukrainian


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


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


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


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


Egyptian court has recommended the death penalty for almost 700 alleged


Islamists, including the lead ore the banned Muslim Brotherhood,


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


confirmed death sentences for 37 other, whose trial on similar


charges were widely condemned internationally. The verdicts can be


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


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


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


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


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


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


remained impassive. For relatives, there was a double


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


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


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


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


lifted. Instead almost 40 men have been


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


keep asking when daddy is coming home.


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


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


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


watching closely. Critics may wonder just where Egypt


is heading. Let's discuss these death sentences


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


constitution, passed this year, even this particular verdict actually


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the point where they need to have serious legal representation in


order to have their sentences rejected. The judicial system itself


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


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


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


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


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


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


for talking us through that complicated situation. Thank you for


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


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


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


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


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


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


debris from the missing air Malaysiian plane has been called


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


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


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


States has carved a path of destruction in the state of


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


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


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


its path. You can see from this why they call


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


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


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


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


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


survivors. This three-year-old girl was found


100 feet from her home with a badly damaged hip.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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