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Surrender talks set with separatists in Ukraine as standoff lasts into Easter

By Alissa de Carbonnel and Alastair Macdonald DONETSK/KIEV (Reuters) - A senior mediator from Europe's OSCE security body is due to start negotiating the surrender of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, although hopes for a rapid end to the crisis are limited.

At Easter, Ukrainian church condemns Russian 'aggression'

By Alastair Macdonald KIEV (Reuters) - As Russians and Ukrainians celebrated Easter on Sunday with their nations locked in conflict, the head of Ukraine's Orthodox Church condemned Russian "aggression" and said "evil" would be defeated.

Easter war of words breaks out between Ukraine and Russia

Politics overshadowed Easter observances in Kiev and Moscow late Saturday, with the Orthodox religious leaders in each capital trading barbs over the crisis in Ukraine -- while the US reportedly prepared to send ground forces to neighbouring Poland. Patriarch Filaret thundered to the faithful in pro-West Kiev that Russia was an "enemy" whose "attack" on Ukraine was doomed to failure because it was evil and contrary to God's will.

Russia writes off 90 percent of North Korea debt, eyes gas pipeline

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's parliament has agreed to write off almost $10 billion of North Korea's Soviet-era debt, in a deal expected to facilitate the building of a gas pipeline to South Korea across the reclusive state. Russia has written off debts to a number of impoverished Soviet-era allies, including Cuba. North Korea's struggling communist economy is just 2 percent of the size of neighboring South Korea's.

French hostage says 'very happy to be free'

One of the four French hostages freed after 10 months in captivity in Syria said Saturday he was "very happy to be free", Turkey's Dogan News Agency reported. Didier Francois, smiling broadly and wearing a long beard, spoke briefly to a journalist at a police station in the small Turkish town of Akcakle near the Syrian border, according to images broadcast by the Turkish agency. Francois, along with his colleagues Edouard Elias, Nicolas Henin and Pierre Torres, were found by Turkish soldiers on the border, with their hands bound and blindfolded, Dogan reported.

In Seoul, Obama to focus on security guarantee, FTA

By Lee Chi-dong WASHINGTON, April 18 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Barack Obama will have two main goals in his trip to South Korea next week -- assuring Washington's security commitment and promoting bilateral economic ties, according to the White House Friday. Shortly after flying into Seoul on April 25 from Tokyo, Obama will head to the War Memorial of Korea to lay a wreath. It is one of the most symbolic places for the alliance as the two nations fought side by side against the invading North Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War.

In Seoul, Obama to focus on security guarantee, FTA

By Lee Chi-dong WASHINGTON, April 18 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Barack Obama will have two main goals in his trip to South Korea next week -- assuring Washington's security commitment and promoting bilateral economic ties, according to the White House Friday. Shortly after flying into Seoul on April 25 from Tokyo, Obama will head to the War Memorial of Korea to lay a wreath. It is one of the most symbolic places for the alliance as the two nations fought side by side against the invading North Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War.

Russian EU envoy says Kiev misinterpreted Geneva agreement

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's envoy to the European Union said the authorities in Kiev had incorrectly interpreted an international deal to resolve the crisis in Ukraine, where rebellions have broken out in Russian-speaking eastern provinces. "If we are speaking about how the Geneva document is being interpreted in Kiev by the current authorities, then unfortunately they understood this incorrectly," Vladimir Chizhov told the Russian state television Rossiya-24.

Japan, China, S. Korea investment pact to take effect May 17

An investment pact involving Japan, China and South Korea aimed at promoting corporate investment will come into effect on May 17, the Foreign Ministry said Friday. The trilateral pact, the first such legal framework involving the three East Asian countries in the economic field, will take effect now that China has informed Japan that its internal procedures have been completed, according to a ministry official.

Kiev warns separatists of 'actions' next week

By Pavel Polityuk KIEV (Reuters) - The Ukrainian government warned on Friday it could take "more concrete actions" next week if pro-Russian separatists do not end their occupations of public buildings under the terms of an international accord.
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