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Member of security watchdog OSCE killed in Ukraine

One member of European security watchdog OSCE’s monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine was killed and two others were injured after their vehicle drove over a mine near Luhansk.

An American man was killed and a German woman was injured on Sunday morning, a spokesman for Austria’s foreign ministry said . Austria holds the rotating presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Germany’s foreign ministry said two were injured, but gave no immediate details . The OSCE confirmed on Twitter that a patrol with six members and two armoured vehicles had been in a “serious incident” but gave no further information.

Three years after Moscow annexed the Crimean region, tensions between Ukraine and separatists in the Russian-held eastern part of the country remain high and a 2015 ceasefire agreement is violated regularly.

The Ukrainian military said the incident took place at 10:17 local time (0717 GMT) near the small village of Pryshyb, which is controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

The unarmed, civilian OSCE mission with more than 700 international observers was deployed in 2014 . The role of the monitors includes verifying the withdrawal of heavy weapons as agreed under the 2015 ceasefire agreement.

“It is a terrible tragedy,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement, calling for “an immediate end to the violence and unjustified accusations, especially on the part of separatists in eastern Ukraine.”

“It is in the interest of everyone involved, especially the conflict parties on the line of engagement, that OSCE observers are able to carry out their important, indispensable, and at once difficult and dangerous work,” Gabriel said.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz on Twitter both called for an investigation of the incident . Kurz said he had spoken to the mission’s ambassador, Ertugrul Apakan.

“Need thorough investigation; those responsible will be held accountable,” Kurz said on Twitter.

A spokesman for the OSCE said further information would be released as it became available.

The 57 member states of the OSCE, which include Ukraine, Russia and the United States, in March extended its monitoring in Ukraine by a year.

Gabriel said the OSCE patrols had clearly prevented a more serious military escalation in recent years.

(Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi in Zurich, Francois Murphy in Vienna, Pavel Polityuk in Kiev and Andrea Shalal in Berlin; editing by Jason Neely)

Venezuela security forces battle anti-Maduro protesters

CARACAS Venezuelan security forces quelled masked protesters with tear gas, water cannons and pepper spray in Caracas on Tuesday after blocking an opposition rally against socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

The clashes began after authorities closed subway stations, set up checkpoints and cordoned off a square where opponents had planned their latest protest against autocratic government and a crippling economic crisis.

In cat-and-mouse skirmishes on backstreets and highways around the capital, youths built barricades, burnt trash and hurled rocks and bottles at soldiers and police . Various opposition leaders organised roadblocks.

Police used pepper spray on National Assembly head Julio Borges, two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles and rights activist Lilian Tintori, as they led protesters onto highways and jostled at barricades, witnesses said.

Opposition activists said armed pro-government gangs joined the fray and opened fire. “About 50-100 guys arrived on bike and started to shoot in the air,” protester Bernardo Sanchez told local media, saying a bullet had lodged in his thigh.

In one street, kneeling women sang the national anthem as neighbours banged pots and pans from nearby buildings in a show of anger against a government they blame for a deep recession that has led to shortages of food and basics.

“We’re going to get rid of them but we have to fight,” said Jose Zapata, 57, an electrician, as he marched with a stick in his hand.

Overlooking one wide avenue, some pro-Maduro residents in a state housing project threw trash onto protesters below.

With thousands out on both sides, supporters of the 54-year-old president organised their own rally, in a volatile scenario seen constantly during the 18 years of leftist rule in the South American nation.

“They want an intervention in Venezuela,” said Prisons Ministry worker Juan Aponte, 34, who wore the red colours of the ruling Socialist Party.

Protests also were staged in other cities and more are planned across the country for Thursday.

The government accuses opposition parties of abetting a U.S.-led plot to topple Maduro, who has ruled Venezuela since the 2013 death of Hugo Chavez.

INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE

Tensions have soared in the oil-producing country’s long-running political standoff after the pro-Maduro Supreme Court last week annulled the opposition-led congress’ functions.

Although the court retracted that ruling over the weekend, the National Assembly remains powerless due to previous court judgement.

The renewed instability sent Venezuelan bonds lower, with the benchmark 2027 paper’s price down 4.4 percent.

Foreign pressure on Maduro has risen as opposition protests resumed late last week.

“Here the world can see the dictatorial path Mr . Maduro has chosen,” Capriles said.

Maduro says the U.S . government and other foes are whipping up hysteria against him to lay the ground for a coup.

“From the north (the United States), they give the order to the defeated fascist right of Venezuela to fill the streets with violence and blood,” Maduro said on state TV.

“In Caracas, in Venezuela, peace has triumphed once again.”

Maduro’s administration is particularly furious with Organization of American States head Luis Almagro, who is leading regional condemnation.

The regional bloc on Monday urged Venezuela to restore congress’ authority and guarantee separation of powers, but Venezuela’s representative walked out, as did the envoy from fellow leftist Bolivia, which holds the OAS presidency.

“The OAS has surpassed itself in aggression against Venezuela,” Maduro said late on Monday. “It is a real court of inquisition, carrying out abuses and vulgarities.”

Venezuela’s opposition won a National Assembly majority in late 2015 but the Supreme Court has overturned almost all its measures.

Due to the chaos in Caracas, the legislature postponed until Wednesday a session to censure the “rupture” of Venezuela’s constitution . Legislators also plan this week to start proceedings to remove Supreme Court judges but that would only be a symbolic rebuke since congress has no power to act.

(Additional reporting by Diego Ore, Carlos Rawlins, Eyanir Chinea and Andrew Cawthorne; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Bill Trott, Toni Reinhold)

Security staff banned from wearing Union flag badges

Security guards at the Bristol Royal Infirmary have been banned from wearing the Union Jack on their stab vests . It is understood that the staff had been wearing the badges for the past two months. They are like those sold in aid of Care of Police Survivors1, a charity which helps families of police officers who have died while on duty . They are becoming more common following the death of PC Keith Palmer in the Westminster attack. The 12 members of staff, employed by the NHS, had received an e-mail telling them to no longer wear the flags on their uniforms.

ITV News approached the Trust that runs the BRI and it issued the following statement. We were contacted recently by a member of the public who saw security officers at the Bristol Royal Infirmary wearing union jack flag patches on their uniforms . The member of the public commended the security staff on how well they dealt with a difficult incident and asked about a union jack patch that they had on their uniforms as they had not seen it before on an NHS uniform.

Our Trust policy says that uniforms cannot be altered or personalised and that only professional badge adornments are permitted . Security staff were therefore reminded of this and asked to remove any non-authorised badges or symbols from their uniforms . We also shared with them the compliment from the member of public.

University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust spokesperson

References

  1. ^ Care of Police Survivors (www.ukcops.org)