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Russian invasion damaged up to 30 pct of Ukraine’s infrastructure, says minister

Russia’s invasion has damaged or destroyed up to 30 percent of Ukraine’s infrastructure at a cost of $100 billion, a Ukrainian minister said on Monday, adding reconstruction could be achieved in two years using frozen Russian assets to help finance it.

Ukraine has not previously outlined the specific impact on infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, although officials say the total bill for damage to everything from transport to homes and other buildings runs to about $500 billion so far.

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“Practically all components of our transport infrastructure have suffered in one form or another,” Infrastructure Minister Oleksander Kubrakov told Reuters.

He said the invasion – which Russia launched in February, calling it a “special military operation” – had affected “20 percent to 30 percent of all infrastructure with varying degrees of damage, with different levels of destruction.”

Kubrakov said more than 300 bridges on national roads had been destroyed or damaged, more than 8,000 km (5,000 miles) of roads had to be repaired or rebuilt and dozens of railway bridges had been blown up. He put the bill at $100 billion so far.

The minister said his ministry had begun some reconstruction in areas now back under the control of Ukrainian troops.

“If we talk about roads, bridges and residential buildings, I believe that almost everything can be rebuilt in two years … if everyone works quickly,” he said.

In the first weeks of the war, Russian forces came close to Kyiv, causing widespread damage to towns and infrastructure in the region. Russian troops pulled back from the north around the capital this month to focus the campaign on the east and south, where the besieged port city of Mariupol has been devastated.

Kubrakov said he expected Western nations to support Ukraine’s reconstruction, adding that funds could be found from a range of sources to support the rebuilding effort.

“There are several sources that are being considered. The first is the assets of the Russian Federation, which are now frozen in almost all major countries,” he said.

The European Union has been seeking to create an international fund for reconstruction, while some EU politicians have called for using Russian assets frozen by the West, including $300 billion in Russian central bank reserves.

Kubrakov said the Ukrainian justice ministry and some of Ukraine’s allies were working on ways to use frozen Russian assets. He said one option would be to raise cash by selling seized assets through what he called a “transparent mechanism.”

“I believe that this is fair, such a mechanism has never been used … It will be the first time,” he said, adding that setting up such a mechanism would require some pioneering work: “There have been no precedents yet. Was there a precedent for one country in Europe to attack another in the 21st century?”

Read more: Analysis: West’s failure to hold Syria’s Assad accountable motivated Russia’s Putin

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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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