While you slept, we tracked Viktor Yanukovych’s call for early elections in Ukraine, Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy’s plea of innocence, a crackdown on the streets of Venezuela, an attack on Somalia’s presidential palace, and the ninetieth birthday of a reviled world leader.
1. Ukraine will go to the polls early. Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s president, attempted to quell deadly protests in Kyiv by telling his people they’ll vote before the planned elections in 2015. “I am fulfilling my duty before the people, before Ukraine and before God in the name of saving the nation, in the name of preserving people’s lives, in the name of peace and calm of our land,” Yanukovych said in a statement, after the German and Polish foreign ministers brokered a deal. The elections could come before the end of the year. Yanukovych also reportedly agreed to form a national unity government that included opposition parties.
2. Mohamed Fahmy had his day in court. The Egyptian-Canadian journalist, who served as Al-Jazeera’s Cairo bureau chief before he was arrested on suspicion of terrorism, entered a not-guilty plea in a Cairo courtroom yesterday. Fahmy’s family was barred from the courtroom, and journalists and foreign diplomats were also forced to wait hours before being admitted to the proceedings. During the hearing, Fahmy yelled from his bench that the prison conditions he faces are “psychologically unbearable.” Canadian consular officials say their influence is limited, because Fahmy is a dual Canadian and Egyptian citizen.
3. Venezuela disrupts the internet. Protesters in San Cristobal, where anti-government demonstrations have raged for weeks, complained that authorities had blocked their internet access and disrupted a popular communications app. Blame for the current unrest falls on either Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s administration or apparent American attempts to inflame anti-government sentiment, depending on the source. Maduro threatened to kick CNN out of his country, a reaction to the U.S. broadcaster’s critical coverage of the regime.
4. A car bomb exploded outside of Somalia’s presidential palace. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Somalia’s president, was not hurt when al-Shabab militants set off the explosion outside the compound’s gates. A number of armed fighters entered the grounds and fought for control of buildings surrounding the palace. Al-Shabab claimed fighting was ongoing even as UN envoy to Somalia Nick Kay claimed the attack had failed.
5. Robert Mugabe turns 90. The 90-year-old president of Zimbabwe, Africa’s oldest head of state and one of the world’s most despised leaders, returns to his country this weekend after undergoing eye surgery. Don’t be surprised to learn that he’s throwing himself an extravagant birthday party that, his critics say, taxpayers will cover themselves.