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NATO urges more Russia talks to defuse Ukraine crisis

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Saturday he had sent a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offering more talks to defuse a possible conflict in Ukraine but warned Moscow of the dangers of making impossible security demands.
Stoltenberg said he sent the letter on Thursday, urging Lavrov to agree to more talks in the format of the NATO-Russia Council, which met in January to formally discuss Moscow’s calls for allies to withdraw troops from eastern Europe.
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He also told the Munich Security Conference that there were no signs of a Russian withdrawal from the borders of Ukraine – despite Russia’s assertion this week that it had begun withdrawing troops – and that the risk of a conflict was real as Moscow’s military build-up continued.
“I have invited Russia and all NATO allies to meetings in the NATO-Russia Council. And I reiterated my invitation in the letter that I sent to minister Lavrov on Thursday,” he said.
“We are extremely concerned because we see that they continue to build up, they continue to prepare. And we have never in Europe seen since the end of the Cold War, such a large concentration of combat-ready troops,” he said.
In a rare admission of the limits of diplomacy, Stoltenberg also told the conference that Moscow was putting forward security demands that the Kremlin knew NATO could never meet.
In the stand-off over Ukraine, Russia has sent tens of thousands of troops near the border with its neighbor while insisting it has no plans to invade. President Vladimir Putin is pressing security demands including a block on Ukraine ever joining NATO. NATO has said that, under UN treaties, every nation is free to choose its alliances.
“So that danger is now the combination of this massive military buildup, with the very threatening rhetoric, putting forward demands they know we cannot meet and say if we don’t meet them, there will be military consequences,” Stoltenberg said.
Speaking alongside Stoltenberg, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Moscow’s threats toward Ukraine could reshape the entire international system and would also cost Moscow economically.
“The world has been watching in disbelief as we face the largest build-up of troops on European soil since the darkest days of the Cold War, because the events of these days could reshape the entire international order,” von der Leyen said.
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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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