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German Defense Minister in visit to Lithuania says Russia cannot ‘dictate’ to NATO

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht on Sunday said Russia cannot “dictate” to NATO on regional security, as tensions soar between Moscow and Western capitals over the conflict in Ukraine.

She spoke during a visit to Lithuania, which along with its Baltic neighbors Estonia and Latvia is worried about security after Russia deployed tens of thousands of troops near its border with fellow ex-Soviet Ukraine.

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“We have to resolve the tense situation we are in now both diplomatically and with credible deterrence,” Lambrecht told reporters.

“We have to talk with each other, which means discussing the proposals that Russia has put forward. That is right and important,” she added at Lithuania’s Rukla military base.

“But it cannot be that Russia dictates to NATO partners how they position themselves.”

The trip is Lambrecht’s first since being named defense minister, after new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats formed a coalition government with the Greens and the liberal FDP earlier this month.

Lambrecht met with her Lithuanian counterpart Arvydas Anusauskas, who said that “Russia has mobilized forces in the Kaliningrad region that are ten times larger than the battalion deployed in Rukla.”

“In this situation, Russia’s demands that weaken the security of our countries are simply impossible to implement. I think they need to be rejected,” he told reporters.

Around 550 German troops are stationed at Lithuania’s Rukla military base as Germany leads the multinational battalion in the country.

Similar military units were sent to other Baltic states and Poland in 2017 to deter Russia after Moscow annexed Crimea and helped separatists take over parts of eastern Ukraine three years earlier.

After amassing some 100,000 troops near Ukraine, Russia on Friday unveiled proposals to contain the role of the United States and NATO in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, calling for urgent negotiations with Washington.

The proposals called for the US-led NATO alliance not to admit new members or establish bases in ex-Soviet countries.

The West has threatened Russia with harsh sanctions should its soldiers enter Ukraine.

Ahead of her visit, Lambrecht called for harsher sanctions against Russia over its troop deployment.

Those responsible for any aggression had to face “personal consequences”, she told German weekly Bild am Sonntag, adding that Germany and its allies should put Russian President Vladimir Putin and his entourage “in our sights.”
“We have to exhaust all the diplomatic and economic sanction possibilities. And all further steps should be agreed with our allies,” she said.

In the wake of Ukraine discussions by EU leaders in Brussels last week, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said the current regional security situation is “probably… the most dangerous it’s been in 30 years.”

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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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