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Masked pro-Russian activists guard a barricade at an occupied regional administration building in Donetsk, Ukraine, Saturday. Ukraine says it is suspending an "anti-terrorist" operation for Easter. (AP)

Ukraine Calls An Easter Truce In Clash With Militants

Apr 19, 2014

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Citing progress in diplomacy and this weekend's Easter holiday, Ukrainian officials say they've suspended an "anti-terrorist operation" that is aimed at pro-Russian forces who have occupied government buildings in eastern Ukraine.

The move comes after an international group including Ukrainian officials, Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia's top diplomat Sergei Lavrov reached an agreement late this week in Geneva that would compel the separatists to disarm and abandon the buildings they've taken in parts Donetsk and other cities with large Russian-speaking populations in eastern Ukraine.

"In exchange, the government in Kiev would give the regions more autonomy, offer equal status to the Russian language - which are two of the things the rebels have been asking for from the beginning," NPR's Ari Shapiro tells Wade Goodwyn on Weekend Edition Saturday.

But Ari notes that the agreement reached in Geneva faces challenges in Ukraine.

"At this point, the occupiers say they will only lay down their weapons and leave if the interim government in Kiev also steps down," he says.

At an occupied building in Donetsk, the rebels displayed a sign Friday that read, "Yanukovych is our only president," Ari notes.

The separatists have also demanded an independence referendum next month, before Ukraine is scheduled to hold elections to install a permanent government to replace the ousted President Viktor Yanukovych.

"The anti-terrorist operation continues. How long it is going to last, it depends on when the terrorists leave our territory. Due to the Easter holidays and the Geneva agreements, the operation is not in its active phase at the moment," Ukraine's Security Service press secretary Maryna Ostapenko said, according to a news release from the defense ministry.

The BBC has this look at the broader picture:

"The US has threatened more sanctions if Russia fails to abide by the agreement.

"The Kremlin responded by accusing the White House of treating Moscow like a 'guilty schoolboy.'"

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Usman Riaz performs at a Tiny Desk Concert in February 2014. (NPR)

Usman Riaz: Tiny Desk Concert

Apr 19, 2014

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This is simply astonishing. Watch twenty seconds and you'll be sucked into the world of Usman Riaz, an immensely talented 23-year-old Pakistani musician who will change your perception of how a guitar can sound and be played. What's more remarkable is that this Berklee College of Music whiz kid learned much of his dazzling guitar technique by watching YouTube videos at 16. He also learned what he calls "parlor tricks," like body percussion and harmonica. But the classically trained pianist also used the Internet to learn how to write and conduct orchestra pieces and make films. If you're a skeptic, fine, just watch this youngest of TED senior fellows and be dazzled.

Set List

  • "Boneshaker"
  • "The Waves"
  • "Shimmer"

Credits

Producers: Bob Boilen, Denise DeBelius; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Denise DeBelius, Gabriella Garcia-Pardo, Olivia Merrion; photo by Jim Tuttle/NPR

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According to Dr. Martin Blaser, the overuse of antibiotics has contributed to killing off strains of bacteria that typically live in the gut. (Getty Images)

Fresh Air Weekend: 'Missing Microbes,' 'The Both,' And Mike Judge's 'Silicon Valley'

Apr 19, 2014 (Fresh Air)

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Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors, and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

Modern Medicine May Not Be Doing Your Microbiome Any Favors: In Missing Microbes, Dr. Martin Blaser argues that the overuse of antibiotics, as well as now-common practices like C-sections, may be messing with gut microbes.

A Duo's Debut Album: A Collaboration From 'The Both': Aimee Mann and Ted Leo began performing together in 2012, when Leo was Mann's opening act. Mann began joining Leo onstage during his set. Their debut album is "The Both."

'Silicon Valley' Asks: Is Your Startup Really Making The World Better?: Mike Judge's HBO sitcom pokes fun at programmers hoping to hit it rich. It's not the first time Judge has satirized the workplace: His 1999 cult film Office Space explored desk-job-induced ennui.

You can listen to the original interviews here:

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A South Korean navy frogman dives into a water to search passengers believed to have been trapped in the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Saturday. (AP)

Captain Apologizes As Death Toll Rises In S. Korea Ferry Accident

Apr 19, 2014

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A relative sits in a gymnasium in Jindo, South Korea, where the families of people who are aboard the sunken South Korean ferry Sewol have gathered to await news from the recovery effort.

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Divers searching a sunken South Korean ferry have found three more bodies, bringing the number of victims to 32. Since the ship sank Wednesday, difficult conditions have complicated recovery efforts; heavy cranes have arrived that can shift the ferry, but officials say they'll wait to use them until they're sure none of the hundreds still missing managed to survive.

"They've been dealing with next to zero visibility, very strong currents," NPR's Anthony Kuhn tells Wade Goodwyn on Weekend Edition Saturday. "Also, they've been trying to pump air into that ship, in the hopes that there are some survivors hanging on in air pockets."

The captain of the Sewol, a 6,852-ton ferry, has been criticized for allowing 30 minutes to pass before giving an evacuation order. And days after the disaster, Lee Jun-Seok, 69, was arrested along with two crew members. He is charged with negligence of duty and other offenses.

The ferry began to sink on its way to a resort island off South Korea's southern coast Wednesday with 475 people on board, including 325 high school students.

About 174 people reportedly survived. Desperate efforts to find anyone who might have survived in air pockets within the ship were plagued by poor visibility in the water and strong currents.

After the accident, crew members say the ship turned more sharply than usual. Experts believe the ferry was doomed when its cargo shifted, causing it to list at an angle from which it couldn't recover. South Korea's Yonhap news agency says that officials don't believe an external cause, such as a large rock or other object, played a role.

Here's how we've described the sinking:

"At first, survivors say, they were told to stay in place. It was 30 minutes or so, they report, before the order was given to abandon ship. By then, many of those on board reportedly couldn't get to lifeboats because the ship had tilted too far. Within two hours, the ferry had capsized."

After he was arrested, the captain apologized. As the BBC reports:

"I am sorry to the people of South Korea for causing a disturbance and I bow my head in apology to the families of the victims," he said.

"I gave instructions regarding the route, then I briefly went to the bedroom and then [the sinking] happened" he said.

"The current was very strong, the temperature of the ocean water was cold, and I thought that if people left the ferry without proper judgement, if they were not wearing a life jacket, and even if they were, they would drift away and face many other difficulties," he said.

The captain added that at the time, rescue ships had not yet arrived on the scene.

Yonhap reports that an analysis of the list of known survivors finds that a large percentage of the crew escaped the sinking wreck, including all 15 who were tasked with steering the ferry. Less than a quarter of the high school students who were aboard the ferry have been found alive, the agency says.

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A South Korean navy frogman dives into a water to search passengers believed to have been trapped in the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Saturday. (AP)

Putin Tries To Sell Ukraine's Muslims On Russian Rule

Apr 19, 2014 (Weekend Edition Saturday) — Russian President Putin is reaching out to Muslims in Crimea. Professor Robert Crews tells NPR's Wade Goodwyn that Putin is trying to build alliances in the Muslim world to weigh against the West.

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A relative sits in a gymnasium in Jindo, South Korea, where the families of people who are aboard the sunken South Korean ferry Sewol have gathered to await news from the recovery effort.

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