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Uneasy legacy of 2012: EU crisis, Syrian conflict, Assange revelations and more

As the New Year’s fireworks die down and 2013 begins in earnest, RT looks at 2012’s most memorable moments: The Olympics, the Israel-Gaza conflict, Ecuador granting Assange asylum, protesters clashing with riot police in Madrid and Athens, and more!

­Two major topics made constant headlines throughout the year, the war in Syria and the crisis in the European Union

Syria’s bloody domestic conflict did not scale down, with the opposition and western countries pushing for Syria’s President Bashar Assad to step down. However, demands and predictions that he would fall in 2012 went unfulfilled. In early November Assad sat down for an exclusive interview with RT insisting he would not give up as the forceful, uncompromising push for regime change continued and terror reigned in his country.

“I am not a puppet. I was not made by the West to go to the West or to any other country. I am Syrian, I was made in Syria, I have to live in Syria and die in Syria,” he told RT.

Deemed everything from civil war to sectarian fighting to terrorism to genocide – Syria stayed centre stage of a media war throughout 2012, with unconfirmed atrocities on both sides haunting the web and only one side taking the brunt of the blame.

The EU, meanwhile, was going through a battle of finances which left behind a trail of other casualties – ordinary people out of jobs and hope.  With the financial crisis deteriorating, nation-wide strikes were staged and thousands went to the streets as people grew tired of growing cuts and economic hardships.

Spain had millions rallying at a time demanding the government stop cuts and Greece saw massive demonstrations, as a 44 billion Euro bailout received at high cost,does not improve their woes.

The year however, was full of all sorts of events: wars and science break-throughs, human rights triumphs and losses. Below, RT lists a calendar of the most memorable events.

January

Costa Concordia with 4,252 people on board runs aground off the Italian coast after hitting a reef.  The tragedy takes the lives of some 30 people and adds a new, very sad landmark, to the coastline of Isola del Giglio – a half sunk cruise ship.

The EU announces an oil embargo for Iran, effective July 2012. Tehran’s disputed nuclear program also draws trade and bank restrictions imposed on the Persian country. The EU’s move almost instantly follows similar measures taken by Washington.

Throughout the year Iran will declare their economy is not suffering any losses, while tensions in the Strait of Hormuz will be spiking as American aircraft carriers pay frequent visits. The year will also be punctured by Iran’s and Israel’s mutual threats with Benjamin Netanyahu finally taking out a red marker at the UN General Assembly and drawing a line for Tehran’s nuclear enrichment.

February

After 30 years of drilling, Russian scientists reach “The Lost World” –  Antarctic  Lake Vostok, a unique subglacial reservoir formed 20 million years ago.

March

Russia re-elects Vladimir Putin president for a third term.

At least 16 civilians are killed in Kandahar, Afghanistan, by a US soldier Robert Bales. At the moment, Bales is in the US awaiting a court martial. Army officials will seek capital punishment. The incident follows an accidental burning of Koran copies at a US military base that provoked violent massive protests in February.

April

A 77-year-old Greek man shoots himself in front of the parliament in Athens saying in his death note that he refuses to “search for food in garbage”. The death reignites austerity anger in crisis-stricken Greece.

May

In Russia, protests turn violent for the first time since the recent opposition movement began rallying in December 2011, in an attempt to get the parliamentary and presidential elections restaged. Over 400 arrests are made and both protesters and police report injuries. Since May 6 events, 13 criminal cases over igniting unrest have been opened and the laws regulating demonstrations have been toughened. The new opposition has also started visibly losing colour.

June

A Cairo court sentences Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak to life in jail over murder and attempted murder of 225 anti-government demonstrators in January 2011.

Myanmar dissident Aung San Suu Kyi finally delivers her Nobel acceptance speech at Oslo's City Hall – two decades after being awarded the peace prize.

July

The European Parliament votes against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement after weeks of massive protests across Europe. ACTA critics said the law would protect copyright at the expense of freedom of speech on the Internet.

Abundant rains in Russia’s south provoke a flood which kills 171 people while over 35,000 others suffered from the torrents. The disaster sent thousands of volunteers from all over the country to Krasnodar Region to help deal with the aftermath.

James Eagan Holmes sets off tear gas grenades and then fires at the audience in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, at the first night of the film “Dark Knight Rises”. Twelve people are killed and 58 others are injured.

Queen Elizabeth II declares the Summer Olympic Games open.

August

The US Senate kills the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). The act was designed to allow the government gather internet traffic information from private companies and thus ensure cyber-security. Back in January, the US Congress sent back SOPA and PIPA bills designed to curb online piracy in the wake of massive protests which included a Wikipedia black-out.

A Moscow court sentences three members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot to two years in a medium-security prison for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and enmity. The scandal that followed the band’s controversial performance in Moscow’s central cathedral made world headlines and split the world into two camps: the first one hailing Pussy Riot’s audacious political protest, the other one condemning the grave insult to Orthodox Christians’ feelings.

Ecuador grants political asylum to the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.  As an advocate for free speech, Assange spent more than  half of 2012 under house arrest in the UK but still managed to find a way to communicate. Despite Ecuador’s decision, Assange was forced to remain at the country’s embassy in London as Britain denied him safe passage.

Neither house arrest nor his exile at the embassy prevented Assange from making his exclusive talk show with RT. The Julian Assange Show was launched on RT in April; his guests included those shunned by the mainstream media like Hezbollah leader Sayyid Nasrallah, Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab, US Noam Chomsky, Occupy Wall Street Movement activists and many others.

In Norway, far-right extremist Anders Breivik is sentenced to 21 years imprisonment. The court has found him guilty of carrying out a bombing and shooting massacre in and around Oslo, which killed 77 and wounded over 240 in July 2011. Breivik refuses to appeal the verdict and apologises for not killing more.

September

Thousands of Egyptian protesters storm a US embassy in Cairo removing the American flag and trying to replace it with a black flag reading "There is no God but Allah." The crowd was infuriated by a YouTube trailer to ‘The Innocence of Muslims’, a Californian-made amateurish movie which mocked the Prophet Mohammed. The Cairo outrage ignited worldwide Muslim protests which resulted in over 70 deaths.

The assault on the US embassy in Egypt coincided with a terrorist attack on the American consulate service in Libya’s Benghazi that claimed the life of the US ambassador to Libya,along with three other Americans.

October

And the Nobel Peace Prize goes to… the European Union!

The Superstorm Sandy devastates the Caribbean and the US East Coast. In Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba and the Bahamas the hurricane took at least 122 lives, while in the US there were 131 fatalities. Major destruction and devastation followed Sandy’s progress.

November

Barak Obama secures another term as the US President. However, as America went through its most expensive election ever, not all candidates received a fair opportunity to take a full part in the presidential race.

Despite being on the ballot in enough states to technically win, US Presidential Candidate Jill Stein and other Third Party candidates were not allowed to debate and received almost no coverage in the lead up to elections on US networks. As a result, they had to look for alternative ways to bring their platform to the voters – and RT Washington’s studio aired one of the debates.

Israel launches  a Pillar of Defence military operation in Gaza with an air strike, killing Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabar. Eight days of military action saw about 170 Palestinians and 6 Israelis killed.

Shortly after an Egypt-brokered ceasefire, Palestine celebrates gaining UN non-member status with an overwhelming majority supporting the decision.

December

Adam Lanza opens fire in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, killing twenty children and six adults.

The majority of Egyptians uphold the country’s new constitution, exit polls show. This comes despite recent fierce demonstrations between the constitution supporters and opponents across the country that saw several people killed, dozens injured and resulted in President Mohamed Morsi being driven out of his residence in Cairo. Critics of the new document slam it for proclaiming the Islamic law as the main guiding principle for Egypt. Constitution opponents were also infuriated by Morsi’s November decree, which granted him nearly absolute powers.

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