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Borrell vows EU’s ‘full support’ for Ukraine on front line visit

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EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell vowed the bloc’s full support for Ukraine Wednesday as he visited amid fears Moscow plans to invade and ahead of US-Russia talks on the crisis.

The visit comes as the West tries to deter Moscow from launching an attack on its ex-Soviet neighbor, which has battled pro-Kremlin separatists in two eastern regions bordering Russia since 2014.

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“We are here first to reaffirm European Union’s full support to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Borrell told a press conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

“Any military aggression against Ukraine will have messy consequences and severe costs,” he said in the village of Stanytsya Luganska in the Lugansk region.

“And we are coordinating with the US, with NATO and other like-minded partners in order to work for de-escalation.”

Kuleba said Ukraine and the European Union had a common goal, “to de-escalate the situation through diplomatic means so Moscow reduces tensions and abandons its aggressive intentions.”

Borrell’s visit was the first by an EU foreign policy chief to eastern Ukraine since war broke out nearly eight years ago.

Borrell said the timing was right because “the geopolitical landscape is changing very quickly and the conflict on the borders of Ukraine is on the verge of getting deeper.”

Washington and its allies have accused Russia of planning an invasion after massing some 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s border.

High-ranking officials from the United States and Russia are set to hold two days of talks in Geneva on the crisis starting Sunday after the Kremlin issued a raft of demands to Washington.

Brussels fears it is being sidelined as the United States and Russia discuss the balance of power in Europe.

“There is no security in Europe without security of Ukraine. And it is clear that any discussion on European security must involve the EU and Ukraine,” Borrell insisted on Wednesday.

Read more: Biden told Ukraine leader US will ‘respond decisively’ if Russia invades: White House

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Stampede at Liberian church gathering kills 29

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A stampede has killed at least 29 people at a religious event in the suburbs of the Liberian capital Monrovia, police said on Thursday.

Those who died from the incident include 11 children and a pregnant woman.

The bodies have been taken to the morgue of Redemption Hospital, close to where the incident occurred in a beach area called New Kru Town.

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The stampede erupted when a gang of thugs armed with knives attacked some of the hundreds attending the ceremony at about 9 p.m. on Wednesday night, police spokesman Moses Carter told The Associated Press.

One person has been arrested, he said.

Local media said it was a Christian prayer gathering, known in Liberia as a “crusade,” held in a football field.

Witness Emmanuel Gray, 26, told AFP he heard “heavy noise” towards the end and saw several dead bodies.

Street gangs have become an increasing problem in Monrovia and other Liberian cities in recent years, according to residents.

President George Weah was expected to visit the scene Thursday, according to Liberian media reports.

Liberia, Africa’s oldest republic, is an impoverished country that is still recovering after back-to-back civil wars between 1989-2003, as well as the 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola epidemic.

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US sanctions Liberia’s ex-warlord and senator Prince Johnson

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US approves ballistic requests to ship US weapons to Ukraine

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The US has approved requests by Baltic nations to ship US-made weapons to Ukraine amid fears of a Russian invasion, officials said Thursday.

A State Department official in Berlin, where Secretary of State Antony Blinken was holding talks on Ukraine, said the US was “expediting authorized transfers of US-origin equipment from other allies.”

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“European allies have what they need to move forward on additional security assistance (to) Ukraine in the coming days and weeks,” the official said.

A source familiar with the authorisations said the approval was for urgent requests by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to assist Ukraine, a fellow former Soviet republic.

The exact amounts and types of weapons were not specified, but the Baltic nations’ arsenals include Javelins, portable missiles capable of destroying tanks.

Tens of thousands of Russian troops, along with tanks and artillery, have been deployed near the Ukrainian border since late last year, rattling the three Baltic nations, which are members of NATO.

President Joe Biden’s administration since last year has approved $650 million in weapons to Ukraine, $200 million of it last month amid fears of war.

While the Biden administration boasts that the shipments are the most ever by the US, Ukraine has voiced hope for military supplies as quickly as possible, with shipments from nearby countries especially valuable.

Britain has also rushed to support Ukraine, announcing on Monday that it was sending anti-tank weapons.

Read more:

Explainer: What are US military options to help Ukraine if Russia invades

US senators work on bipartisan bill to aid Ukraine

Ukrainian president thanks US for help during ‘difficult time’

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Bomb blast in Pakistan’s Lahore kills two, injures 16

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At least two people were killed and 16 injured Thursday by a bomb blast in a busy shopping district of the Pakistani city of Lahore, police said.

“Initial investigations show that it was a time-controlled device on a motorbike which was the cause of the blast,” Rana Arif, spokesman for Lahore police, told AFP.

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