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“It takes a special kind of person to make a living out at sea. It takes another to do so in the vanguard of the Arctic – the North Fleet,” says RT’s Murad Gazdiev.
The sea is in the blood of the sailors and they have been on duty there for the best part of a year, in total isolation, with only short-term meetings with their families.
“Of course, I miss my family, especially when we go on long and difficult deployments. But, all said and done, my wife knew what she was getting in to,” Viktor Vasiliyev, Captain third class, told RT.
Viktor saw his daughter for the first time when she was 7 months old.
He is a fifth generation officer - even his great-great grandfather served in the Russian fleet.
“My father and both of my grandfathers were officers… my great-grandfather was an officer, and even my great-great-grandfather was an officer in the Tsar’s army. So I’m a 5th generation officer,” he adds.
The crew is undergoing a rigorous test in the Arctic and they don’t know what Mother Nature has in store for them.
“The crew, as they say, is one big family. If there’s no friendship, nothing to bind them together, then you can’t succeed… the ship won’t be able to carry out its mission,” adds Vasiliyev.
“Russia’s North Fleet has its own way of life in the Arctic, based on long-standing traditions, discipline and fellowship,” reports Gazdiev, walking along a billboard with big pictures of Russian admirals and Russian ships.
“From Peter the Great – who founded the Russian fleet – to the admirals throughout the centuries – they all helped shape what would become the North Fleet,” he says.
The destroyer Admiral Levchenko is carrying staff and supplies from Severomorsk, a town in the Murmansk Region in northwest Russia, to Kotelny Island in the White Sea. They will take part in the relaunch of an old military base, which was abandoned almost three decades ago. The base was reopened last year as part of Russia’s military build-up in the Arctic.
According to the Northern Fleet’s commander, Admiral Vladimir Korolyov, the major goal of the latest expedition “is to deliver personnel, equipment and property of the Northern Fleet’s tactical group, which, starting this year, is going to fulfill military service in the New Siberian Islands on a permanent basis.”
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"Six people have been arrested so far in relation to the incident in George Square. Retrospective inquiries will be carried out, which may lead to further arrests,” said a police spokesman.
A spokesperson from Police Scotland told local media that there were about 100 people in each group. But then 'Yes' supporters started leaving the square, which became dominated by unionists. However, other sources said that there were several hundred activists from both sides.
The supporters of the ‘No’ campaign set off red-colored fire crackers and waved Union Jack flags, singing 'Rule Britannia’, ‘You Let Your Country Down’ and ‘Can You Hear the Yes Campaign?’ they carried banners associated with the pro-Union Protestant Orange Order. They reportedly let off flares in George Square.
On the other side of the square there were campaigners for Scottish Independence.
“We will never surrender,” read a pro-independence sign. The pro demonstrators were reportedly singing the Scottish anthem “Flower of Scotland.”
The unionists then started clashing with pro-Independence supporters. With tensions high, police tried to keep the opposing political forces apart.
One Vine video from George Square depicts a young woman with a Scottish flag on the ground being attacked by an angry man with a Union Jack.
This George Square thing is about pure hatred of all that is not what they are #GlasgowRiots
— 4. 8. 15. 16. 23. 42 (@AngelaConway) September 19, 2014
One Twitter user posted a photo showing pro-Union activists performing Nazi salutes.
Another witness told newscom.au that during the rally police officers tried to rescue ‘Yes’ supporters from the UK nationalists on George Square.
Scotland's biggest city, Glasgow, supported independence with 194,779 votes for and 169,347 against.
The chaos in George Square is not Yes v No voters, it's unionists, which are a whole different issue
— The Hairy Hobbit (@bilbobaggins2k) September 19, 2014
The Orange Order, founded in 1795 to protect the interests of Protestants in Ireland, has always been opposed to the break-up of the United Kingdom, and insists it must stand by its Scottish brothers to protect the union.
'No' campaigners believe that Scotland would be more secure and prosperous as part of the United Kingdom rather than independent. The end of this union, they say, would destroy three centuries of shared history and may potentially lead to economic catastrophe.
On Thursday Scotland voted to stay in the UK following a long and intense campaign. The 'No' campaign rallied 55 percent of the votes against 45 percent of 'Yes' votes.
About 100 fascists triumphantly holding 'No Surrender' banner and attacking Yes supporters in George Square, Glasgow. pic.twitter.com/ngxmXRYiXv
— Jen Izaakson (@Izaakson) September 19, 2014
They're singing 'Rule Britannia' in George Square. Just to think we were singing it peacefully on Saturday pic.twitter.com/OGiAY5j6II
— The Hairy Hobbit (@bilbobaggins2k) September 19, 2014
Shortly after the votes were counted and “Better Together” won, Scotland’s First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Alex Salmond, said he was resigning from office after losing Thursday’s independence referendum.
"We lost the referendum vote but Scotland can still carry the political initiative,” he told journalists and supporters. “For me as leader my time is nearly over, but for Scotland the campaign continues and the dream shall never die."
Let's face it the face of British Nationalism is vile & ugly. I'm proud to have voted for Scotland. #the45
— Indy Mel (@meljomur) September 20, 2014
Representatives from the “Better Together” group thanked Scottish voters, and hoped that the referendum’s end would result in a stronger union in the future.
— Jon Brady (@jonfaec) September 19, 2014
British Prime Minister David Cameron stressed that the direct 'Yes' or 'No' vote made the centuries-old debate over a Scottish referendum settled for this generation, or probably for a lifetime.
“It’s time for our United Kingdom to come together and move forwards,” Cameron said. “I am a passionate believer in our United Kingdom.”
"Today the life of every one is at stake, but we will get over this difficulty if all do what we have been asked to do," President Ernest Bai Koroma said in a national address on Thursday, a day before the shutdown was due to come into force.
People were in a hurry ahead of the edict to buy food. Shopkeepers were distraught at the prospect of losing three days’ worth of income, given that much of the country’s population, including the capital Freetown, live on as little as $2 a day or less. Each day is a struggle.
"If we do not sell here we cannot eat," one vegetable vendor told the AP. "We do not know how we will survive during the three-day shutdown."
The shutdown has left only essential security and medical personnel, as well as volunteers, patrolling the streets, making door-to-door visits to search for disease-stricken civilians who may be hiding.
The government is in the process of identifying sick patients who are unable or reluctant to seek medical care. As part of this emergency awareness campaign, 1.5 million bars of soap will be handed out, along with information on how to prevent infection.
By scanning homes the government hopes to identify hundreds more victims, who are afraid to seek treatment because they fear overcrowded hospitals and disease centers. Many who tried have actually been turned away.
The government is setting up special screening and treatment centers for after the shutdown to deal with the expected influx of patients.
The situation gripping Sierra Leone is reflected in the global panic that erupted, but also in the willingness of people to come together and organize the fight against the epidemic.
A record 130 countries have backed a historic UN Security Council resolution that declared the African epidemic to be a “threat to international peace and security”, calling on the world to supply more aid workers and health professionals, not to mention supplies to plague-stricken Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. The resolution also called on participants not to isolate those countries.
This is the second time in history the UNSC has addressed a health emergency – the first was during the original AIDS epidemic.
"This is likely the greatest peacetime challenge that the United Nations and its agencies have ever faced," said Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO chief.
"None of us experienced in containing outbreaks has ever seen, in our lifetimes, an emergency on this scale, with this degree of suffering, and with this magnitude of cascading consequences," she added.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon is calling for a 20-fold increase in funds to target the disease, bringing the budget up to $1 billion.
Aside from the horror of the epidemic, other problems inevitable arise in the fear-stricken communities. The apprehension experienced in the face of these awareness campaigns and emergency measures is causing much distrust among the public. It has already led to disease center break-ins, the abducting of relatives – which in itself is a threat to containment – and, most recently, to gruesome murders.
In Guinea, the bodies of four local aid workers and three journalists were found in a ditch. They had been on a mission to educate the community. They were abducted by armed villagers, beaten or stabbed to death, and then dumped.
As of Sunday, there were 5,335 probable, confirmed and suspected cases of Ebola across Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal. Of those, 2,622 people have died, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Thursday.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s report, scheduled to be released next week, will estimate how many people the disease will infect by the end of January, assuming no additional aid or intervention by governments and relief agencies occurs.
The current projection of 550,000 cases is currently being reviewed by the researchers and may change.
Just before leaving for a seven-week recess, the US Senate unanimously passed legislation that allocates $10 million for any information leading to the capture of individuals who participated in the beheading of two American journalists this month.
Members of the Islamic State, a Sunni militant group that has captured large swaths of territory in northern Iraq and Syria, published videos in August and September that allege to depict the beheadings of James Foley and Steven Sotloff, two American journalists who were abducted and eventually executed by jihadists.
The actual moment of the beheadings, however, was censored from the videos, a point that has perplexed some experts given the purported savagery of the militants, who have even been accused of beheading Christian babies. In any case, US Senators came out in unanimous support for the reward placed on the killers.
“One way we can honor the memories of James Foley and Steven Sotloff is to bring their evil murderers to justice, which this measure will help do,” Senator Marco Rubio said Friday.
Rubio emphasized it was vital to reinforce the message “that the United States will work tirelessly to ensure that the deaths of these beloved journalists do not go unpunished.”
The next stop for the legislation is the House of Representatives before it heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature, which is unlikely to happen until after November’s mid-term elections.
Bounty allowed, but not ransoms
The announcement of a multi-million dollar bounty for the killers will likely prompt criticism considering that past efforts to secure the release of Foley and Sotloff with ransoms to their captors were rejected by US officials.
The families of the murdered journalists were warned by federal officials that they could face criminal charges if they attempted to pay the Islamic State a ransom.
"We were told that several times and we took it as a threat and it was appalling," Foley's mother Diane said in an interview with ABC News.
The Sotloffs "heard the same thing the Foleys did," their spokesman said in a statement.
The White House believes that paying ransom to the militant group would place more Americans in danger.
"We have found that terrorist organizations use hostage taking and ransoms as a critical source of financing for their organizations and that paying ransoms only puts other Americans in a position where they're at even greater risk," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said at a press briefing.
Announcing a military campaign last week to destroy the fundamentalist organization, US President Barack Obama called the murders of Foley and Sotloff "acts of barbarism."
James Foley was abducted on November 22, 2012 as he was leaving an internet café in northwest Syria. Foley's captors demanded 100 million euros in ransom (132 million US dollars) in exchange for his release.
On August 19, 2014, a video appeared on YouTube entitled "A Message to America," which shows Foley kneeling in the sand at an undisclosed location with a masked individual, dubbed ‘Jihadi John’ in the media due to his London-English accent. The actual moment of the beheading in both the Foely and Sotloff videos is never shown.
Steven Sotloff was abducted on August 4, 2013, near Aleppo, after crossing the Syrian border from Turkey. In early September, another video emerged that shows Sotloff together with a man who appears to be the same masked individual that killed Foley exactly two weeks earlier.