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May 28th, 2014
04:57 AM ET

2 Injured in Attack on U.S. Consular Vehicle in Afghan City of Herat

Two Americans were injured Wednesday in Afghanistan when a U.S. Consulate vehicle was attacked while traveling through the western city of Herat, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said.

The Americans were "lightly injured" and are being treated in a hospital in the city, it said.

The U.S. government is working with Afghan authorities to investigate the attack and bring those responsible to justice, it said.

Last week, four gunmen attempted to attack the Indian consulate in Herat. Two gunmen were killed in that incident but no one else was injured and the consulate building was not damaged.

The latest attack comes a day after President Barack Obamaannounced that he plans for 9,800 American troops, along with some allied forces, to remain in the country in 2015 if the Afghan government signs a security agreement.

MORE at CNN.com

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Filed under: Afghanistan
April 16th, 2014
04:49 AM ET

Putin: Escalating Conflict Puts Ukraine on 'Brink of Civil War'

The escalating conflict in Ukraine "essentially puts the nation on the brink of civil war," Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.

His assessment came during a telephone conversation with his German counterpart, according to the Kremlin, the same day Ukraine's military launched its first, formal military action against pro-Russian militants with troops retaking an airport in the eastern Donetsk region after a reported clash with gunmen.

The military action came a day after a Ukrainian ultimatum expired for protesters to lay down their arms, a move that appeared to signal an escalation in the crisis that has sparked a diplomatic row between Ukraine, its Western allies and Russia.

With pro-Russian militants seizing government and police buildings in as many as 10 towns and cities in eastern Ukraine, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov told Parliament "an anti-terrorist operation" was under way in the region.

The aim of the military operation is to "stop attempts to tear Ukraine to pieces," he told lawmakers.

Witnesses reported hearing gunfire and aircraft that appeared to be coming from the airfield in Kramatorsk, which Turchynov's office said was under the control of Ukrainain special forces late Tuesday.

There were conflicting reports about casualties, with Russian state-run media citing varying casualty claims supplied by militants. According to the reports, there were either two injured or four killed, claims that CNN cannot independently verify.

MORE on CNN.com.

March 6th, 2014
09:32 AM ET

Crimea Lawmakers Vote to Leave Ukraine for Russia, Set Referendum Date

Lawmakers in Ukraine's Crimea region voted Thursday in favor of leaving Ukraine for Russia, which already has the Black Sea peninsula under de facto control, and set a referendum on the move for 10 days' time.

Citizens of Crimea will face a simple choice: Stay in Ukraine or join Russia.

It's not clear how easily the region could split off if the referendum endorses the move.

The autonomous region has a 60% ethnic Russian population, having been part of Russia until it was ceded to Ukraine in 1954 by the Soviet Union.

But not everyone may be as keen on coming under Moscow's direct influence. A quarter of the peninsula's population is Ukrainian and about 12% Crimean Tatars, a predominantly Muslim group.

The parliament in Crimea installed a new, pro-Moscow government late last month. It had previously said a referendum would be held at the end of March on greater autonomy for Crimea.

Citizens will now be asked on March 16 if they want an autonomous republic of Crimea within Russia; or within Ukraine.

Michael Crawford, a former long-serving British ambassador in Eastern Europe, cautioned that whatever the result, it may be meaningless.

"It does not follow that if Crimea votes to join Russia, that anyone will accept it," he said.

"For Russia to start cherry-picking bits of the former Soviet Union, cranking up referenda in Kazakhstan or Latvia or wherever you like, to try to carve off bits, would be against international law, and it would be something Vladimir Putin has said he doesn't want to do."

Putin, the Russian President, has insisted Russia has the right to use military force in Ukraine if necessary to protect ethnic Russians.

But he has denied claims by Ukrainian officials and Western diplomats that Russia has sent thousands of troops into the region in recent days. Russia says the heavily armed troops, in uniforms without insignia, are local "self-defense" forces.

The deputy speaker of the Crimean parliament, Rustam Temirgaliev, said Thursday at a news conference that the only forces allowed in Crimea are the Russian military - and that all others will be considered to be occupying forces.

He said he'd advised Ukrainian troops to swear allegiance to the Russian army or leave Crimea under safe passage.

In the regional capital, Simferopol, residents have demonstrated this week against the interim government in Kiev, with crowds chanting in favor of Putin.

For more, visit CNN.com. 

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Filed under: Crimea • Ukraine
March 4th, 2014
09:33 AM ET

Putin: Russia Has the Right 'To Take All Measures'

Russia does not want to take over Ukraine's Crimea region, President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday, but he showed no signs of backing down on Russia's presence in the region despite Western pressure.

Putin labeled what had happened in Ukraine an "anti-constitutional coup and armed seizure of power," and he insisted that ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is the legitimate leader of the nation.

He called the parliament in Ukraine "partly legitimate" but said the country's acting President is not.

At the same time, he said he saw no political future for Yanukovych, who resurfaced in Russia on Friday after fleeing Kiev 10 days ago.

Appearing at ease as he addressed a handful of reporters in Moscow, Putin said only the people of Crimea, a Russian-dominated autonomous region, could determine their future.

Putin said that there was no need for the use of the military so far, with not a shot fired, and that any use of military force would be the last resort.

But if Russian-speaking citizens in the east of Ukraine ask for Russia's help, Russia has the right "to take all measures to protect the rights of those people," he said. He repeatedly cast any such intervention as a humanitarian mission.

Military action, he said, would be "completely legitimate" because it was at the request of Yanukovych and in line with Russia's duty to protect people with historic ties to Russia, both cultural and economic.

"Firstly, we have a request of the legitimate President Yanukovych to protect the welfare of the local population. We have neo-Nazis and Nazis and anti-Semites in parts of Ukraine, including Kiev," Putin said.

Russian forces have not fired a shot since they crossed into Crimea, he said.

Putin pointed out what he sees as a double standard by leaders in the United States and other Western countries, saying that the U.S. acted in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya without a U.N. resolution authorizing that action or by "twisting" U.N. resolutions.

And he warned that any damage from sanctions imposed by the West against Russia over its actions in Ukraine would be multilateral.

See more at CNN.com

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Filed under: Putin • Russia • Ukraine
December 5th, 2013
05:42 AM ET

Celebrity Chef Nigella Lawson Admits Using Cocaine in Court

Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson used cocaine during two periods of her life, she admitted Wednesday as she testified in the fraud trial of two former personal assistants in a London court, reports CNN's Erin MgLaughlin.

She told the court she had used the drug about six times with her late husband, John Diamond, when he learned that his cancer was terminal, in order to give him "some escape from his treatment."

She also used cocaine once in July 2010 when she felt subject to "terrorism" by her then-husband Charles Saatchi, she said.

At that point she felt trapped, isolated and unhappy, she said, and a friend offered her the drug.

But, Lawson said, "I've never been a drug addict, I've never been an habitual user. ... I did not have a drug problem, I had a life problem."

Saatchi had claimed in an e-mail that Lawson had used drugs regularly, but in testimony Friday he backed off that claim.

Lawson's admission of cocaine use came after she earlier testified that Saatchi had threatened to "destroy" her if she did not "clear his name."

She had been asked about her reluctance to attend court as a witness in the assistants' trial - a case that has gripped the media as claims emerge about the couple's troubled personal life.

"I have been put on trial here where I am called to answer, and glad to answer the allegations, and the world's press, and it comes after a long summer of bullying and abuse," Lawson said. "I find it's another chapter in that."

Referring to Saatchi's request for her to attend the trial, made in a letter sent by his lawyers, Lawson said: "He had said to me if I didn't get back to him and clear his name he would destroy me."

Lawson said she felt she had to do her civic duty. "It's difficult for me, it's very difficult for my children, but I want to do the right thing," she added.

The former aides, Italian sisters Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, deny embezzling hundreds of thousands of pounds on company credit cards while employed by Lawson and Saatchi.

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Filed under: Celebrity • Entertainment • Legal
October 28th, 2013
05:59 AM ET

Report: White House Stopped Phone Tapping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Other Foreign Leaders This Summer

Germany is sending senior intelligence officials to Washington, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Saturday, amid outrage over claims the U.S. National Security Agency monitored German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone.

Among them will be the heads of Germany's foreign and domestic intelligence services and the coordinator of the federal intelligence services, the government's press office said.

The trip comes amid a series of reports that have challenged relations between the two long-time allies. The latest is a story in the German magazine Der Spiegel that - citing a secret U.S. intelligence file - claimed Merkel's phone had been monitored for more than 10 years, stretching back before her current post.

The same database indicated the United States was spying on many others in Berlin's political district, at least up to when U.S. President Barack Obama visited Berlin this year, Der Spiegel reported.

Asked about these claims, U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said her agency does not "comment publicly on every specific intelligence activity."

"And, as a matter of policy, we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations," said Hayden, echoing comments she and others have made in recent days.

Still, it remains to be seen if citizens and leaders in Europe will accept such explanations - and whether recent efforts by the Obama administration to address their concerns will be successful.

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Filed under: NSA
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