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    Ukraine's Tymoshenko Urges Strong European Action Against Secession Try

    Pro-Western Ukrainian opposition icon Yulia Tymoshenko has urged Europe to take strong action to prevent Ukraine's Crimean peninsula from joining Russia, saying such a move will destabilize the entire continent.

    Ms. Tymoshenko, twice Ukraine's prime minister, spoke to European politicians Thursday in Dublin, Ireland, just hours after pro-Russian lawmakers in Crimea voted to join Russia. The parliamentary vote sets the stage for a March 16 Crimean referendum on the region's future that U.S. and European leaders are calling illegal.

    Tymoshenko told a session of the European People's Party -- the largest bloc in the European parliament -- that democracy will suffer "if we allow Russia to hold a referendum at gunpoint."

    Witnesses and Western analysts say thousands of Russian military personnel have crossed into Crimea since last week, setting off a groundswell of Western condemnation against Russian President Vladimir Putin, and warnings of stiff penalties if Moscow fails to withdraw.



    Thursday's vote by the Crimean parliament triggered a flurry of political reaction in Kyiv, European capitals and Washington.

    In Brussels, interim Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called the Crimean parliament's vote to leave Ukraine "an illegal decision." But he told European Union lawmakers his government remains open to crisis talks with Moscow.

    The EU froze the assets in Europe held by 18 Ukrainians, including ousted president Viktor Yanukovych, former prime minister Mykola Azarov and 16 former ministers, business people and security chiefs.

    In Washington, President Barack Obama authorized sanctions, including visa restrictions, against those found to have violated Ukraine's territorial integrity. Separately, the U.S. House of Representatives approved loan guarantees of about $1 billion to the Kyiv government.

    Earlier Thursday, monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were stopped at the border and not allowed into the region. They later returned to Kyiv, where they described the situation in Crimea as tense, and questioned the legality of the upcoming referendum.

    Separately, the international police agency Interpol said it had received an international wanted persons alert for the arrest of the fugitive former president Yanukovych. The ex-president fled Kyiv in late February, under intense pressure from anti-government protesters demanding his resignation. Interpol says the charges include abuse of power and murder.

    Ukraine's crisis began when protests erupted in late November after Mr. Yanukovych rejected an economic deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia. What began as peaceful protests quickly turned violent, leading to the deaths of more than 80 protesters and charges that the Yanukovych government ordered snipers to shoot protesters.

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    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
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    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
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    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.
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    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
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    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
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    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
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    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
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    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
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    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
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    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
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    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

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