World News

    Crimean Parliament Votes to Join Russia

    Lawmakers in the embattled Ukrainian region of Crimea have voted to join Russia, in a move likely to further escalate tensions.

    Thursday's vote by the Moscow-backed Crimean parliament comes as European Union leaders gather for an emergency summit in Brussels to discuss how to pressure Russia to back down from its military incursion into Crimea. U.S. lawmakers are also meeting Thursday to discuss potential economic sanctions against Russia.

    The government of Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula with a majority Russian population, said Thursday it is scheduling a referendum on joining Russia for March 16. Russian President Vladimir Putin is being asked to consider the appeal.

    The Reuters news agency quotes Ukraine's economy minister as saying the referendum on Crimea's status is "unconstitutional."

    Crimea's move to leave Ukraine is likely to shake up efforts toward a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.



    EU leaders are considering possible sanctions against Russia at their meeting Thursday, but with Europe heavily dependent on Russian gas, it is unclear whether any measures adopted will be more than symbolic.

    Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is also attending the meeting. The gathering comes after the 28-nation EU offered Ukraine some $15 billion in aid to span the next couple years.

    Meanwhile, direct efforts to end the crisis continue, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry scheduled to meet again with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Rome Thursday.

    Kerry held a series of discussions Wednesday with Lavrov, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Ukrainian interim Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia. The Russian and Ukrainian ministers did not meet face-to-face during Wednesday's flurry of negotiations, and Kerry said he had not expected they would.

    Ukraine's crisis began when protests erupted in late November after then-President Viktor Yanukovych rejected a deal with the EU in favor of closer ties with Russia. What began as peaceful demonstrations eventually turned deadly as protesters clashed with police. Mr. Yanukovych fled the country last month.

    As the U.S. and EU display their support for Ukraine's new government, the EU is punishing the nation's former leaders, freezing the assets of 18 high-ranking officials of the old government, including ousted President Yanukovych.

    The EU announced the names of those targeted by the measures early Thursday, accusing them of embezzling state funds.

    Mr. Yanukovych's son, his former justice minister and several other government ministers are also among those whose assets have been frozen.

    Tensions in Crimea remain high, just days after Russian forces moved into the peninsula. Robert Serry, the United Nations special envoy to Crimea, was forced to cut his visit to the region short when he was confronted by a group of unidentified gunmen.

    Concerns the turmoil could spread beyond Crimea remained heightened Thursday, amid clashes between pro-Russian demonstrators and Ukrainian police in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. Police took back a government building that had been seized Wednesday by demonstrators. Dozens of people were detained.

    Western leaders have suggested the crisis in Crimea could be resolved if Moscow pulls back its forces to their bases on the Black Sea and allows in international monitors.

    But Lavrov said Wednesday Russia cannot order pro-Russian armed forces in Crimea, which he described as "self-defense" forces, back to bases, because they are not Russian forces. He said allowing international monitors into Crimea is not Russia's decision, but the decision of Ukrainian and Crimean authorities.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora