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Factbox: How Ukraine’s armed forces shape up against Russia’s

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has signed a decree on increasing the size of Ukraine's armed forces by about 100,000 troops over three years and raising soldiers' pay.

Ukraine's armed forces are heavily outnumbered and outgunned by Russia's but military experts say they would be capable of mounting significant resistance and inflicting heavy casualties if Russia were to launch a large-scale invasion after massing troops near the border.

Ukraine's army is also better trained and equipped than in 2014, when Russia captured the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine without a fight, and is widely seen as highly motivated to defend the country's heartland.

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Here are some details of Ukraine's military.

How do the numbers look?

In terms of manpower and weapons, the arithmetic looks grim for Ukraine.

Most military experts' estimates put the number of Russian troops near Russia's border with Ukraine at around 100,000 although Moscow says it is not planning an invasion. Russia has also moved some troops to Belarus, north of Ukraine, for military drills.

Russia's army has about 280,000 personnel and its combined armed forces total about 900,000, while its 2,840 battle tanks outnumber Ukraine's by more than three to one, according to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

Ukraine's prime minister said the decree signed by Zelenskiy – on priority measures to strengthen the state's defence capabilities, increase the attractiveness of military service and the gradual transition to a professional army – would eventually bring Ukraine's armed forces to 361,000 personnel.

While Ukraine trebled its defence budget in real terms from 2010 to 2020, its total defence expenditure in 2020 amounted to only $4.3 billion, or one-tenth of Russia's.

Military analysts say Ukraine's anti-aircraft and anti-missile defences are weak, leaving it highly vulnerable to Russian strikes on its critical infrastructure. They say Russia would also seek to use its superiority in electronic warfare to paralyse its adversary's command and control and cut off communications with units in the field.

How experienced are Ukraine’s forces?

Ukraine's forces have gained combat experience in the Donbass region in the east of the country, where they have been fighting Russia-backed separatists since 2014, and are highly motivated.

They also have short-range air defences and anti-tank weaponry, including US-supplied Javelin missiles, which would help to slow any Russian advance.

Beyond the regular army, Ukraine has volunteer territorial defence units and around 900,000 reservists. Most adult males have at least basic military training, so Russia could find itself facing stubborn and protracted resistance if it tried to capture and hold on to territory.

The military challenge would be incomparably higher than in previous wars Russia has fought since the Soviet Union's collapse, including in breakaway Chechnya in the 1990s and against Georgia in 2008.

What is the West doing to help Ukraine’s military?

Western countries have stepped up arms deliveries to Ukraine, but Kyiv says it needs more. The United States has ruled out sending US troops to Ukraine to fight.

The US has provided over $2.5 billion in military aid since 2014, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, coastal patrol boats, Humvees, sniper rifles, reconnaissance drones, radar systems, night vision and radio equipment. A bipartisan group of US senators has promised further supplies that could include Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, small arms and boats.

Turkey has sold Kyiv several batches of Bayraktar TB2 drones that it deployed against Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Britain supplied Ukraine with a reported 2,000 short-range anti-tank missiles in January and sent British specialists to deliver training. It has also provided Saxon armoured vehicles.

Estonia said it was sending Javelin anti-armour missiles and Latvia and Lithuania are providing Stinger missiles. The Czech Republic has said it plans to donate 152mm artillery ammunition.

Germany has ruled out arms deliveries to Ukraine but is co-financing a $6-million field hospital and providing training.

Could Russia stage a full-scale invasion?

Most military analysts say this would be unlikely because it would involve a long and messy war with unavoidably heavy casualties. They expect Russia to opt for crushing air strikes and/or limited land grabs rather than all-out war including battles for major cities.

One option would be for Russia to push south and west from the Donbass region of east Ukraine, already controlled by pro-Russian forces, to link up with annexed Crimea and the Black Sea. There is also a possibility that troops taking part in the military drills in Belarus could cross Ukraine's northern border as part of any attack.

Putin would be likely to face qualms from his own public about waging war on a fellow Slav nation, as well as intense anti-Russian sentiment within Ukraine. He has also been warned by the West that Russia will be hit with unprecedented sanctions if it attacks Ukraine.

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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

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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