Britain to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by 2015
Prime Minister David Cameron gave a “firm commitment” to withdraw British forces from Afghanistan by 2015. Speaking in the Parliament after returning from the NATO summit in Lisbon, the British prime minister announced that the country needs to know “there is an end point to all this.” Chairman of the shadow cabinet and the Labor’s leader Ed Miliband promised to support the government in its plans to end the conflict in Afghanistan. Today, more than 10,000 British soldiers serve in that country. According to Cameron, the summit showed that the international coalition, whose forces are operating in Afghanistan, keeps its promises. In a statement made in the House of Commons, he said that Britain will hand over responsibility for maintaining security in Afghanistan to local armed forces by the end of 2014. Cameron confirmed that this is fully consistent with plans to complete a withdrawal of combat forces from Afghanistan by 2015.
Dagestani journalist wins International Press Freedom Award
Nadira Isayeva, a journalist from Dagestan, was one of the four recipients of this year’s International Press Freedom Award. The Committee to Protect Journalists annually bestows the Award upon those who independently and courageously cover the events in their region. According to the lawyers, Isayeva was persecuted for published materials about corruption and violence in the Northern Caucasus. As editor-in-chief of the weekly Chernovik newspaper, Isayeva often criticizes the counter-productive, in her opinion, methods of state agencies responsible for fighting terrorism.
Environmentally harmful projects without permits
Ukrainian builders may soon be able to start building environmentally harmful constructions without regard to public opinion. The Ministry of Regional Development and Construction in the draft law “On Regulation of City Planning” proposes to cancel the previously required environmental impact assessment procedure for various kinds of construction projects. The draft law also envisages reducing the number of required permits for developers. At the same time, the law of Ukraine “On Environmental Impact Assessment” provides for public consultation on ecologically damaging construction projects, the press service of the National Ecological Center of Ukraine reports. “By abolishing mandatory environmental impact assessment, the country’s leadership will allow developers to evade consulting the public on the quality of their projects — even with the people who live next to an environmentally unsafe project,” explains the Center’s expert Oleksii Pasiuk. According to the draft law, an environmental assessment will cease to be mandatory for almost all new developments, even for nuclear power plant construction projects and feasibility studies. According to lawyers and environmental activists, the cancellation of environmental impact assessment is contrary not only to Ukrainian law, but also to international law. Ukrainian conservationists and lawyers demand public debate on this bill before it will be sent to the Cabinet of Ministers. In particular, comments to the bill were already presented to the authorities by the All-Ukrainian Environmental League, and the NGO Environment, People, Law. This is particularly important now, what with the draft law stating that its adoption procedure doesn’t include public consultations.
12-year-old Ukrainian becomes world chess champion
Yulia Osmak won the 2010 World Youth Chess Championship, held in Greece. She had held the first place in Ukraine and Europe for five years running. Until now, most of the costs of participating in competitions were assumed by the champion’s parents. However, now the Ministry of Family, Youth and Sports together with the Chess Federation of Ukraine promise financial support to the young champion. At the World Chess Championship in Georgia in 2006 Yuliia placed fifth. The first and second places went to Indians, who have the largest representation at such events. They come with their own coaches and even psychologists who prepare them for each game. At the same time, Yulia made it all on her own, and was morally supported only by her mother, who came with her. They had to pay for their trip by themselves. The family spent over 1,500 euros, a large sum for an average family with two children. However, for the state, especially if its international reputation is at stake (as now, because Yulia enhances the prestige of Ukraine in the world), this sum is barely noticeable. “Before every game I sat at the computer, found my competitors, and studied their previous games and then together with my mother I chose which debut to play,” says Yulia. At the award ceremony Yulia wrapped herself in a Ukrainian flag. It was nice to be the winner, but she felt odd at first that she was now the world champion. Yulia’s first competitor and coach was her grandfather Volodymyr Ivanenko. At the age of five, she started to train with professional coach Leonid Borodin. Next year’s World Chess Championship will be held in Rio de Janeiro. Would Yulia be able to travel there and to represent Ukraine? The answer depends on whether the money for it can be found. We hope that good people will appear, and Yulia will not have to think about the expenses, and all her time will be devoted to preparing for the tournament.
By Anastasia Kokhan