Ten injured in clashes
At least 10 people, including a former interior minister, were injured in the early hours of yesterday morning in clashes between riot police and protesters outside a courthouse in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, witnesses said. In the first clashes since last month, police using tear gas and batons tried to disperse a couple of hundred people protesting against three activists being sentenced to six years in jail, a case seen by protesters as politically motivated. Yuri Lutsenko, a minister in the government of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, was among the injured protesters. Lutsenko, pardoned last year by Yanukovich, was hit in the head, witnesses said. The police said in a statement they had no information about anyone being injured. About 10 km away, several thousand people have set up camp in central Kiev to protest against President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to abandon the trade agreement with Europe in favour of closer cooperation with Russia.
US issues Sochi travel alert
Americans planning to attend the Winter Olympics in Sochi should be vigilant about their security due to potential terrorist threats, crime and uncertain medical care, the US Department of State advised on Friday. In a travel alert, the department said it was not aware of specific threats to US interests related to the Games that begin next month. However, it said large events like the Olympics are “an attractive target for terrorists” and Americans should be aware of their surroundings and take common-sense precautions to stay safe, notably on public transport. Public transport in the general vicinity of Sochi has been targeted by terrorists as recently as late last month, although the department stressed that those attacks took place in the city of Volgograd, about 965km from the Games venue. A group designated by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization, the Caucasus Emirate, has called for attacks on the Olympics, it said.
Drunks cut off ears for bet
Two inebriated men in a Siberian mining region both cut off their own left ears after betting on the result of an arm wrestling contest, police said Friday. The men were drinking to celebrate Orthodox Christmas and held an arm wrestling contest, agreeing that the loser had to cut off his ear, police reported in the southern Siberian Kemerovo region. One of the men won the first bout, but his opponent insisted on a second round, which he won. The two men then decided that according to their rules, both must cut off their ears, police said.
Gift-demanding teacher fired
The education minister has fired a teacher who was filmed aggressively demanding gifts from students in a case that has made headlines in the country, where it is customary to give presents to teachers. Remus Pricopie dismissed Dana Blandu on Friday, saying it was illegal for a teacher to demand money as gifts. Her lawyer said she would fight her dismissal. Police have interviewed Blandu and 20 parents this week. The principal at Bucharest School 10 was fired on Thursday. Students traditionally offer teachers token gifts such as bunches of flowers or chocolates, sometimes in the belief they will get better grades. However, Blandu’s approach has shocked people. She called parents “sheep,” “potatoes” and “poor.” When a parent who secretly recorded her complained, she retorted: “This is a school for snobs.”