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US to share Russia’s security proposals with allies amid standoff

The United States said it would share Russia’s proposals for European security with its allies and partners after Moscow handed them over at talks with US Assistant Secretary of State Karen Donfried in the Russian capital on Wednesday.

The US diplomat arrived at a time of soaring East-West tensions over a build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine. Western countries have warned Russia may be about to launch a new attack on Ukraine, something Moscow has denied.

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Russia wants the United States and NATO to offer legally binding security guarantees that the Western military alliance will not expand further eastwards or deploy certain weapons systems in Ukraine and other countries that border Russia.

“American representatives were literally today handed concrete proposals in our Foreign Ministry that are aimed at developing legal security guarantees for Russia,” Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters.

“We are ready to start negotiations on this crucial issue immediately,” Ushakov said after a video call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping in which he said Xi had backed Russia’s position.

Donfried met Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov for brief talks in the ministry on Wednesday and later held separate talks with Dmitry Kozak, Putin’s point person on Ukraine.

“Ryabkov asked to meet with me to share Moscow’s proposals on European security. I will take these ideas back to Washington and also share them with our allies and partners,” Donfried said in a video posted by the US embassy to Moscow on Twitter.

The Kremlin says NATO’s expansion threatens Russia and runs counter to assurances given to it as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. NATO says its activities are defensive and designed to deter new Russia aggression, while Washington has repeatedly said that no country can veto Ukraine’s NATO hopes.

Donfried travelled to Moscow after holding talks with top Ukrainian officials to offer support in the face of the Russian troop build-up.

Ukraine, long at odds with neighboring Russia, has stepped up military cooperation with NATO, and the Group of Seven warned Russia last week it would face massive consequences and severe costs if it attacked Ukraine.

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014 and has supported pro-Russian separatists who seized a swathe of eastern Ukraine that same year.

Read more: Biden to warn Putin over Ukraine military escalation: Senior US official

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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