Russian natural gas supplier Gazprom cuts gas supplies to Ukraine, following Ukraine's rejection of a 460% price increase. President Vladimir Putin had offered a three-month price freeze if Ukraine would agree to pay the higher price thereafter, but this was rejected. Ukraine pays US$50 per 1000 cubic metres, Russia claims the market rate is $230. (BBC)
Countries across Europe report reductions in gas supplies after Russia disconnected supplies to Ukraine yesterday. Russia accuses Ukraine of stealing 100 million cubic metres of gas yesterday from pipelines transiting the country; Ukraine denies this but has previously claimed the right to 15% of the gas as a transit toll. Hungary reports supplies are down by 40%, France and Italy by 30%, and Poland by 14%. Germany, Russia's principal customer, also reports reductions. Russian supplier Gazprom says that it will increase supplies and return them to normal by Tuesday night. (Sky News)
Eleven people are killed when the roof of an ice rink collapse in Bad Reichenhall, southern Germany, under the weight of recent snowfall, trapping some 50 skaters underneath. (CNN)
Severe storms affected East Java, Indonesia, leading to flooding and landslides. At least 57 people are believed to have been killed in the flooding and up to a further 200 people were assumed to be buried alive in the town of Cijeruk 350 kilometers east of Jakarta. (BBC)
Law and crime
Ugandan presidential candidate Kizza Besigye is released from prison. Besigye was arrested on November 14 on treason and rape charges. (News24)
Sago Mine disaster: In West Virginia, US, family members now say only one trapped miner has been brought out alive from the collapsed coal mine. All 12 others are dead. Earlier news reports, at approximately 10:30 p.m. EST, indicated that 12 miners were found alive. Rescue crews found one body late Tuesday after 13 miners were trapped following an explosion on Monday. (Yahoo!)(ABC)
Russia-Ukraine gas dispute: The Russian and Ukrainian natural gas companies agree to end their dispute and resume gas supply to Ukraine under a complex price scheme in which OAO Gazprom will sell gas to the Rosukrenergo trading company (owned by Gazprom Bank and Raiffeisen Bank) for US$230 (E195) per 1,000 cubic meters as of Jan. 1, and Ukraine will buy gas from the company for US$95 (E80). (IHT)
Rescue workers are still battling to find survivors after the roof of an ice rink collapsed in Bad Reichenhall, southern Germany, leaving at least 10 people dead, some of them children. It is thought many are still trapped under the rubble. (BBC)
Jack Abramoff of the Jack Abramoff lobbying and corruption scandal pleads guilty to federal conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion charges. According to NPR, this puts Abramoff on the prosecutor's side and he is expected to cooperate in the continuing investigation that could involve "up to 20 members of Congress" (NPR). The court filing is available as a PDF on NPR.org
Seven Qassam rockets are fired on civilian Israeli targets by Palestinian insurgents. Two rockets land near a gas station on a road leading to the Israeli town of Sderot, and another five land near Kibbutz Zikim. There are no reports of injuries or damage. (B92)
At least 76 people have died following the collapse of a five-story hotel in Mecca. The death toll is expected to rise. Most of the dead are foreign Muslim pilgrims who had made their way there for the Hajj. (Forbes)
A third child from the same family in eastern Turkey dies of H5N1avian influenza. Hülya Koçyiğit, 11, was the sister of Mehmet Ali, 14, who died last weekend, and of Fatma, 15, who died on Thursday. She was the third human fatality outside China and South-East Asia. A six-year-old brother is also being treated for the same disease. (Reuters)(Times)
Charles Kennedy, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, the third-largest political party in the United Kingdom, announces his resignation with immediate effect after unprecedented criticism from his party's MPs. This comes despite previous vows to stand in the leadership election he declared two days earlier. (BBC News)
The U.S. CIA attempts to kill Ayman al-Zawahiri by bombing Damadola, Pakistan, a village near the Afghanistan border. The attack kills at least 18 people: eight men, five women and five children. Anonymous U.S. government sources claim he was invited to a feast in the village, but did not attend. (CNN)
President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya has declared the ongoing drought a national disaster and has appealed for US$150 million to feed the hungry. 2.5 million people have been left close to starvation due to the lack of rains over the last three years and corrupt officials who steal food aid. (Reuters)
The Stardust spacecraft has successfully landed in the Dugway Proving Ground after collecting dust samples from the cometWild 2. It is the first time extraterrestrial samples other than of the moon have been collected and the Stardust spacecraft is the fastest man-made object to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere. (AP)
Human Rights Watch in its annual report strongly condemns the United States, saying "it became disturbingly clear that the abuse of detainees had become a deliberate, central part of the Bush administration's strategy of interrogating terrorist suspects". (CBC) (BBC News) (Human Rights Watch press info)
Two people who conspired to extort money from Wendy's by planting a severed finger in a bowl of chili and then suing the restaurant are sentenced to about ten years each in prison. (CTV)Archived 2006-02-19 at archive.today
At least thirty-one people have died during a four-day cold snap in Russia where temperatures have plunged to as low as −42 °C (−44 °F). (CBC)
A leaked memo from the United Kingdom's Foreign Office reveals that the British government had a strategy aimed at suppressing a debate about the US practice of transporting detainees to secret centres where they are at risk of being tortured. (Guardian Unlimited).
At 4 o'clock UTCNASA's Pluto probe New Horizons crossed the orbit of the Moon, eight hours and thirty-five minutes after launch. This is a new Earth-to-Moon-distance flight record.
Three former workers at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant in Ohio are indicted for repeatedly falsifying inspection reports and other information to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The plant's owner, FirstEnergy Corporation, accepts a plea bargain and $28 million in fines in lieu of criminal prosecution. (Toledo Blade)
Google's launch of a new, self-censored search engine in China is a "black day" for freedom of expression, says leading international media watchdog Reporters without Borders. (BBC)
Ryanair, Europe's largest low-cost carrier, and the world's most profitable airline, announces that it intends to charge up to €7 per bag checked in by customers. In return, the airline fares will drop by 9%. (RTÉ.ie)
Indian foreign secretary Shyam Saran reacts sharply to US Ambassador David Mulford's warning over the future of the Indo-US nuclear deal, saying on Thursday that it was "inappropriate" and not conducive to good relations between the two countries. (Express India)[permanent dead link]
India's foreign ministry calls the comments inapproapiate and summons the ambassador to Delhi for an explanation (BBC news).
The Foreign Ministry of China says "We oppose impulsively using sanctions or threats of sanctions to solve problems" and also indicates that they would support Russian efforts to resolve the dispute. (Reuters)
The International Atomic Energy Agency has announced it has evidence within its report for the Thursday meeting that Iran obtained documents showing how to mold highly enriched grade uranium into the core of warheads. (Reuters)
In the United States, a female ex-postal worker opens fire in a mail-processing plant, killing six people and critically wounding another before committing suicide in what's believed to be the deadliest workplace shooting ever carried out by a woman in U.S. history. (CNN)
U.S. oil company ExxonMobil announced profits for 2005 of $36.1 billion, a record amount in US corporate history. In anticipation of a public backlash, the company simultaneously posted newspaper advertisements in the US to explain its success. (Seattle Times)
A tourist coach crash in Egypt on the highway between Hurghada and Luxor kills 14 and injures another 30 people. All casualties are from Hong Kong and were joining Jetour Holidays tours.