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'No question at the moment' of Ukraine pulling back heavy weapons
by Staff Writers
Kiev (AFP) Feb 16, 2015

Australian FM uses angry face to describe Putin in emoji interview
Sydney (AFP) Feb 16, 2015 - Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has conducted what is reportedly the world's first political emoji interview, using an angry red face to describe Russia's Vladimir Putin and a running man to depict her boss Tony Abbott.

Buzzfeed, which on Thursday released a video with US President Barack Obama doing "things everyone does but doesn't talk about" such as posing in front of a mirror, interviewed Bishop by sending her text messages.

Bishop responded using only emojis, the ideograms used for various visual messages sent online, many of which are based on variations of a smiley face.

"The foreign minister accepted the challenge in the spirit in which it was offered to her," her spokeswoman said.

Asked about her prime minister, fitness fanatic Tony Abbott, Bishop replied with an image of a man running. For Abbott's potential leadership challenger, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, she offered a mobile phone.

For Russian President Putin, however, she came back with a fuming red face with angry eyes and a downturned mouth.

The foreign minister gave the relationship with long-standing ally the United States a thumbs up, a tick, and a broadly smiling face, and for China pretty much the same -- except the grinning face was wearing black sunglasses.

For Indonesia, where the impending execution of two Australian drug convicts could strain ties, Bishop offered a thumbs up and a tick for the relationship, but added a downcast face.

Bishop also revealed via emoji that she prefers cats to dogs, her spirit animal is a monkey and her guilty pleasures are high-heeled shoes, cookies and donuts.

Asked whether she wanted to be prime minister, the popular foreign minister replied with an expressionless face with a straight line for a mouth.

On a lighter note, asked which emoji she could not live without, she opted for a winking smiley face blowing a kiss.

Ukraine's army is not planning to pull its heavy weapons back from the frontline late Monday, as it is meant to do under a nascent truce, because of continued attacks by pro-Russian rebels, a military spokesman told AFP.

"There is no question at the moment of us withdrawing heavy weapons," spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov said. "How can we pull back weapons if the rebels are trying to attack us with tanks, and are constantly firing at us?"

Another military spokesman, Dmytro Chaly, separately told AFP that at least five Ukrainian soldiers had been killed and 22 wounded in the town of Shyrokine by rebel fire since the ceasefire started early Sunday. The town is near the coastal city of Mariupol.

Ukrainian government officials said the rebels were keeping up shelling of Debaltseve, a strategic town that serves as a railway hub linking the main insurgent-held cities of Donetsk and Lugansk in the east. Thousands of government troops are in the town, which is mostly surrounded by rebels.

New EU sanctions hit two Russian deputy defence ministers: official
Brussels (AFP) Feb 16, 2015 - The European Union included two Russian deputy defence ministers in its latest Ukraine sanctions list Monday, hitting them with travel bans and asset freezes for their role in the conflict.

The EU's Official Journal named Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov and first Deputy Minister of Defence Arkady Bakhin for supporting Russian troop deployments in Ukraine.

Among three other Russians named were Joseph Kobzon and Valery Rashkin, members of the Duma (parliament).

The EU listed 14 Ukrainians, all military or political figures in the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, alongside nine entities.

EU foreign ministers agreed the sanctions late last month after deadly attacks on the key port city of Mariupol killed more than 30 civilians but suspended their application as France and German led last ditch efforts to secure a Ukraine ceasefire.

EU leaders then decided at a summit Thursday to go ahead with the sanctions because, irregardless of the new peace effort, they were meant to punish those implicated in the Mariupol attacks.

Publication of the names in the Official Journal puts the sanctions into effect.

The latest additions bring the total to 151 individuals and 37 entities.

Brussels first imposed targeted sanctions on individuals after Russia's annexation of Crimea in March 2014 but adopted tougher economic measures after the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in July.


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Main stumbling blocks for Ukraine peace plan
Kiev (AFP) Feb 14, 2015
A ceasefire signed by Kiev and pro-Russian rebels after marathon talks between the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France comes into force Sunday, the first step in a peace deal aimed at ending 10 months of conflict. The fragile agreement reached in Minsk Thursday is seen as the best hope to end fighting but scepticism runs high after the collapse of a similar deal and the plan is f ... read more

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