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Canada will send up to 500 observers to Ukraine election next month: Harper

OTTAWA - Canada will send up to 500 people to monitor Ukraine's presidential election next month, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday. The Canadian delegation is to include up to 338 people in an election observation mission. "Canada is a world leader in helping to promote democracy and good governance in Ukraine," Harper said in a statement. "The measures announced today will help ensure that the upcoming Ukrainian elections are free and fair and that democracy and governance are the cornerstones of the new government."

First troops land in Poland as US beefs up Baltic presence

The first American troops arrived in Poland on Wednesday, after Washington said it was sending a force of 600 there and to the Baltic states amid rising tensions with Russia over Ukraine. Some 130 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade -- nicknamed "Sky Soldiers" -- touched down early afternoon in Swidwin, in the northwest of the country, and were welcomed by Poland's defence minister.

Murdered politician in Ukraine suffered 'many knife wounds'

A local politician whose mutilated body was found near a rebel-held town in east Ukraine suffered many knife wounds, his anguished widow said Wednesday after identifying his body. Volodymyr Rybak, a local councillor from the pro-Western party of Ukraine's acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, was found on the weekend along with another male corpse weighted down in a river close to the town of Slavyansk. The discovery prompted Turchynov to order a new military offensive against the rebels, whom he blamed for the killing and "brutal torture".

Moscow to meet Ukraine for energy talks as EU frees gas for Kiev

By Barbara Lewis and Vladimir Soldatkin BRUSSELS/MOSCOW (Reuters) - European and Russian officials will meet this week and next for emergency talks to try to prevent Moscow cutting off gas supply to Ukraine, as Europe explores how to pump more gas to the struggling country. Moscow has nearly doubled the natural gas price it charges Ukraine and threatened to cut gas supplies for non-payment of debt since a new pro-Western government took over in Kiev in February.

Kiev announces town 'liberated' but residents dumbfounded

Ukraine's government announced Wednesday its forces had "liberated" an eastern town from pro-Kremlin separatists -- but AFP found no sign of military units and puzzled residents said they had never been under rebel control. The interior ministry said in a statement that Svyatogorsk, a town of 5,000 inhabitants around 15 kilometres (10 miles) north of the flashpoint city of Slavyansk, was "liberated from illegal armed separatist groups" by special forces, with no casualties.

Merkel invites Hollande to Baltic coast on May 9-10

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet French President Francois Hollande in her electoral district on the Baltic Sea on May 9 and 10, her office said Wednesday. German media said the talks, described by the French president's office as "informal", would focus on the Ukraine crisis. Merkel has previously invited other leaders to the northeastern city of Stralsund, including former US president George W. Bush in 2006 and then-eurogroup leader Jean-Claude Juncker in 2012.

Telekom Austria proves slippery target for Slim

By Georgina Prodhan and Angelika Gruber VIENNA (Reuters) - Tycoon Carlos Slim stumbled in his bid for control of Telekom Austria <TELA.VI> on Wednesday, as a meeting designed to rubber-stamp a co-ownership deal with the Austrian government was boycotted by labor representatives unhappy with the proposal.

Russia says it will respond if Ukraine interests attacked

By Pavel Polityuk and Alastair Macdonald KIEV (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the United States of being behind the political upheaval in Ukraine and said Moscow would respond if its interests came under attack. Lavrov's comments came a day after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was in the Ukrainian capital with promises of support for the pro-Western government, and a warning to Russia not to interfere in Ukraine.

Exhumation of suspected mass grave begins in Serbia

Forensic experts began exhumation work Wednesday on a suspected mass grave in Serbia believed to contain remains of ethnic Albanians killed during the 1998-1999 Kosovo war, officials said. The exhumation at the Rudnica quarry near the southwestern town of Raska was ordered after human remains were found in the area in December after more than three years of searching the site. Dozens of experts were engaged in the process, which would last "until full investigation is done," said the chairman of Serbia's committee for missing persons, Veljko Odalovic.

Presidential poll 'destructive' for Ukraine: Russian FM

Ukraine's going ahead with its May 25 presidential election without consulting first with pro-Russian voters "is very destructive for the country," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday in an interview with state-controlled RT television. He said Moscow would only "recognise something that would be based on the all-inclusive process", adding, "to call an election without finding some common ground with the east and the south of Ukraine I think is very destructive for the country." edy/neo/rmb/cc
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