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Putin makes thinly-veiled invasion threat as Ukraine talks open

Russian President Vladimir Putin left the door open to intervening in Ukraine Thursday in a thinly-veiled threat that coincided with the opening of crunch Geneva talks on the escalating crisis. Warning that the former Soviet republic was plunging into the "abyss", Putin said he hoped not to have to use his "right" to send Russian troops into Ukraine, just hours after three pro-Moscow separatists were killed in an overnight gunbattle with Ukrainian troops.

Japan postpones foreign minister's trip to Russia

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan has postponed a visit to Russia by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida that had been planned for later this month, the foreign ministry said on Thursday, as bloodshed in an eastern city in Ukraine threatened to overshadow crisis talks in Geneva. A Japanese foreign ministry spokesman said the visit had been postponed for scheduling reasons.

China to appeal WTO rare earth ruling

BEIJING (Reuters) - China said on Thursday it would appeal against a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that found it violated global trade rules with its export limits on rare earth minerals used in defense and technology products. China lost a WTO dispute in March, handing Europe and the United States a victory over what they see as China's unfair trade practices. "China will make the utmost efforts in the appeals process," Ministry of Commerce spokesman Shen Danyang told reporters at a monthly briefing.

Obama, Abe to battle negative images at U.S.-Japan summit

By Linda Sieg and David Brunnstrom TOKYO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When U.S. President Barack Obama meets Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a summit next week, they will be battling negative undercurrents that could undermine their message that Asia's most important security alliance is firm. Obama, stopping in Tokyo at the beginning of a four-nation Asian trip, must counter worries in Japan that his commitment to its defense in the face of an increasingly assertive China is weak.

High-stakes Ukraine talks open as Putin warns of 'abyss'

Russia and Ukraine sat down Thursday for Western-backed talks on the escalating crisis in the former Soviet republic as Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the authorities in Kiev of dragging the country towards the abyss. In a dramatic worsening of tensions in the restive east, three pro-Moscow separatists were killed in an overnight gunbattle with Ukrainian troops in the southeastern port city of Mariupol.

Ukraine troops kill pro-Russia militants ahead of key talks

Ukrainian troops killed three pro-Russian militants in the country's tense southeast early Thursday, just hours ahead of key talks in Geneva seeking to ease the escalating crisis in the former Soviet republic. The gun battle erupted overnight when around 300 people lobbed petrol bombs and fired weapons at an interior ministry base in the port city of Mariupol, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on his Facebook page.

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret. Of about 6.3 million square kilometres (2.4 million square miles) of soil surveyed -- roughly two thirds of China's total area -- 16.1 percent is thought to be polluted, the environmental protection ministry said in a report. The study, which appeared on its website, blamed mining and farming practices among other causes.

First Nations bar B.C. from LNG summit over sweet gas assessment exemption

FORT NELSON, B.C. - A group of B.C. officials has been kicked out of a First Nations forum on liquefied natural gas over the government's decision to exempt most of the gas produced in the province from mandatory environmental assessment. Chief Sharleen Gale of the Fort Nelson First Nation, organizer of the summit in the northeast corner of the province, asked the bureaucrats to leave and escorted them out.

US readies sanctions, demands concessions from Russia

The United States warned Wednesday it was "actively preparing" new sanctions to hit Russia if critical Ukraine talks do not produce concessions from Moscow. US officials privately signaled they had little hope that the Geneva talks between Russia, Ukraine, the European Union and Washington would make significant progress. They also revealed that the toughest available sanctions -- those targeting key sectors of the Russian economy -- would only come into force in the event of a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Fears grow for hundreds missing in S. Korea ferry capsize

The frantic search for nearly 300 people, most of them schoolchildren, missing after a South Korean ferry capsized slipped into a second day Thursday, as distraught relatives maintained an agonised vigil on shore. Six people were confirmed dead, but with every hour that passed fears mounted for the 290 still unaccounted for after the multi-storey vessel with 475 on board suddenly listed, capsized and then sank 20 kilometres (13 miles) offshore.
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