As they did in Crimea, gun-wielding pro-Moscow militants are taking over government buildings in eastern Ukraine, posing something of a dilemma for the interim government in Kiev. Without a forceful response, it could risk a repeat of Russia's near-bloodless takeover of Crimea, starting with eastern cities like Donetsk and Slavyansk, or it could fight back and risk giving Russia a pretext to send troops in ostensibly to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine. With the militant activity expanding, President Oleksandr Turchynov chose the former course.
"The Council of National Security and Defense has decided to carry out a large-scale anti-terrorist operation with the use of armed forces of Ukraine," Turchynov said Sunday afternoon. "We won't allow Russia to repeat the Crimean scenario in the eastern region of Ukraine." He softened the news a little bit, promising amnesty to protesters to leave peacefully without firing shots and offering greater local governance to eastern provinces.
Russia responded by calling for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Sunday night, where Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin argued that the world's powers should stop Ukraine from using force. The U.S. incited the anti-Moscow demonstrations in Kiev that led to the ouster of pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych, Churkin alleged, "so now the U.S. is going to encourage this criminal use of force?.... In just a few hours' time things might take an irreversible turn for the worse."
The U.S., Europe, and Ukraine countered with evidence that the well-armed militants leading the takeover of Ukrainian government buildings are Russian commandos. But forget about that for a minute.
The idea that Russia would argue that a government doesn't have the right to quell uprisings within its own borders would be darkly comical if the situation weren't so serious. Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that no other countries interfere as he brutally crushed Islamic separatist movements in Checnhya and Dagestan — though, to be fair, the U.S. at least wasn't overly sympathetic toward Russia's Islamist militants in the post-9/11 Chechen crackdowns. And it was right after meeting with Putin at the Sochi Olympics that Yanukovych started his ill-fated crackdown on the Ukrainian protesters camped out in Kiev's Maidan square.
If any other country were dealing with an armed separatist movement within its borders, Russia would applaud its strong hand and warn other countries to back off. I wouldn't be surprised if Turchynov chose his words — "anti-terrorist operation" — primarily for Russia's benefit. Peter Weber
Charlotte city officials say they are planning extra security for the Carolina Panthers vs. Minnesota Vikings game their city will host Sunday, because protests over the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott are expected to move to the Bank of America Stadium. The city has labeled the game an "extraordinary event," a category which permits police to ban backpacks in the stadium as well as items like box cutters and chains that might be used as weapons.
Protesters took to the streets for a fifth night on Saturday after the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department released dash and body camera footage depicting Scott's death. The video does not settle the issue of whether Scott had a gun or whether he was holding it while interacting with officers, a major point of contention between police and the Scott family.
"There is no definitive evidence in this video as to whether or not there is an object in his hand, and if there is, what that object is," said an attorney for Scott's family, Justin Bamberg. "But what we do know is that the moment Mr. Scott is shot, it appears as though he's not aggressively moving toward law enforcement; he's actually doing the opposite. He's passively stepping back."
Some protesters have expressed hope that an NFL player, like the Panthers' Cam Newton, who has spoken on race-related issues in the past, might declare their support for the rally at the stadium. Bonnie Kristian
North Korea held its first air show Sunday, and only two of the planes were remote-controlled scale models.
Intriguingly, one of the models was a miniature American F-16, an odd choice for the isolated, communist nation whose government regularly declares its hatred for the United States. Likewise odd, another demonstration featured U.S.-made Hughes MD 500 military-use helicopters, which in theory should not be in North Korea thanks to U.S. sanctions.
The show also featured parachutists, passenger planes, and fireworks. Watch a portion of the demonstration below. Bonnie Kristian
WATCH: North Korea holds first public air show pic.twitter.com/YPeVVBUgV7
— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) September 24, 2016
French United Nations Ambassador Francois Delattre said Sunday the barrage of Syrian government airstrikes that have pounded rebel-held areas of Aleppo since Friday amount to "war crimes" by the Bashar al-Assad regime and cannot be left unpunished.
The "Security Council simply cannot accept such war crimes — yes, war crimes — to repeat again," Delattre argued, proposing "an immediate humanitarian truce in Aleppo and the Ghouta [a region of Syria near Damascus], 20 years after the siege of Sarajevo."
Since Friday, more than 200 strikes have hit Aleppo, killing at least 100 people and leaving 2 million civilians without running water. The U.N. Security Council convened at 11 a.m. Eastern time Sunday to discuss the situation. Complicating matters, the council includes Russia, which is allied with the Assad regime.
Update 1:06 p.m.: British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday also said "war crimes" are occurring in Syria and suggested Russia is responsible because of its alliance with Damascus. American U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power took a slightly more measured approach, avoiding the war crimes label but terming Moscow's actions in Syria "barbarism, not counter-terrorism" and calling the conditions in Aleppo "apocalyptic."
A Russian spokeswoman immediately rejected Johnson's remarks. "The foreign minister of Great Britain Boris Johnson said in a broadcast of the BBC that Russia is guilty of protracting civil war in Syria and, possibly, of committing war crimes in the form of air attacks on convoys with humanitarian aid," Maria Zakharova said on Facebook Sunday. "All this is right except for two words: Instead of 'Russia' it needs to be 'Great Britain' and instead of 'Syria,' 'Iraq.'" Bonnie Kristian
Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence promised Sunday his running mate, Donald Trump, will "absolutely" tell the truth while debating Hillary Clinton on Monday because he "always speaks straight from his mind and straight from his heart."
Trump is "going to speak the truth to the American people," Pence said in an interview with CBS' Face the Nation. "That’s why you see the tremendous momentum in this campaign."
The veep candidate also weighed in on Trump's informal style of debate prep — which poses a sharp contrast to Clinton's more studied approach — arguing that Trump "has been preparing for this debate for his entire lifetime." After all, "he's built a great business and he's traveled the country," Pence said, "and particularly in this campaign he's given voice to the frustration and aspirations of the American people like no leader in my lifetime since Ronald Reagan." Bonnie Kristian
Gary Johnson says care for the environment now, but eventually 'we do have to inhabit other planets'
Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson said intergalactic travel is part of the long-term plan of dealing with climate change while speaking with ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday.
Stephanopoulos played a clip from several years ago in which Johnson argued, "the long-term view is that in billions of years the sun is going to actually grow and encompass the Earth, right? So global warming is in our future." Asked whether that means "we don't do anything about it now," Johnson said that line was a joke but then got serious, arguing his mention of the sun highlights "the fact that we do have to inhabit other planets. I mean, the future of the human race is space exploration."
Still, right now, "we should be prudent with the environment," he added as the interview ended. "We care about the environment. Look, clean air, clean water. I think the EPA exists to protect us against individuals, groups, corporations that would do us harm. Pollution is harm." Bonnie Kristian
Gennifer Flowers, the actress and Penthouse model who claims to have had a 12-year affair with former President Bill Clinton, on Saturday agreed to take a front-row seat at the first debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Monday night. On Sunday, the Trump campaign said she's not invited.
The cold shoulder came from both Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, who said on CNN Flowers was never "formally" invited, and from vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, who told Fox News' Chris Wallace that Flowers will not attend.
The arrangement was originally suggested by Trump himself on Twitter Saturday in response to news that Clinton supporter Mark Cuban said he would sit in the front row. Whether Cuban or Flowers would even be permitted to take those seats is unclear; the candidates do have tickets to distribute as they please, but the Commission on Presidential Debates said it would "frown upon" prominent placement of either person. Bonnie Kristian
An onslaught considered to be the heaviest bombing campaign of the Syrian civil war continues in Aleppo after the aerial attack by government forces began buffeting rebel-held parts of the city with airstrikes on Friday.
More than 200 strikes have pounded Aleppo's eastern neighborhoods since then, killing more than 100 civilians, including children. Rescue workers are still attempting to free people from the rubble of their flattened homes. An estimated 2 million people in Aleppo have no running water after attacks damaged the water station serving rebel-held areas and another water station serving government-controlled parts of the city was turned off in retaliation.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday condemned the assault as the "most sustained and intense bombardment since the start of the Syrian conflict," calling it "appalling" in advance of a U.N. meeting on Syria cease-fire efforts. Bonnie Kristian