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Canada boycotts Arctic Council Moscow meeting over Ukraine occupation

OTTAWA - Canada will boycott an upcoming meeting of the Arctic Council in Moscow because of the Russian occupation of the Crimean Peninsula. Leona Aglukkaq, the minister responsible for the Arctic Council, says Canada won't be attending a scheduled meeting later this week because of Russia's illegal occupation of Crimea. Canada and Russia sat at the same Arctic Council table just three weeks ago in Yellowknife when senior officials from all eight countries last met. Aglukkaq says the move is part of Canada's "tough stance" against Russia, which includes sanctions.

Russia says deeply concerned over reports of casualties in eastern Ukraine

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said it was deeply concerned on Tuesday over reports of casualties in eastern Ukraine, where Kiev has launched an operation against pro-Russian separatists. "The reports we are getting cause deep concern. To all appearances, events are beginning to develop under the worst case scenario," Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian foreign ministry's human rights representative, was quoted by state news agency RIA as saying. (Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Steve Gutterman)

Russia warns of zero growth as economic alarm rises

Russia's economy may not grow this year, the finance minister said Tuesday, warning that Ukraine standoff could see Moscow face its toughest times since the start of the global financial crisis. Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said at a government meeting that Russia's economy faced "the most difficult conditions since the 2008 crisis," when Russia went into deep recession, Russian news agencies reported. "GDP (gross domestic product) growth is estimated as rather low, 0.5 percent," he said. "Perhaps it will be around zero."

Kremlin says reports about Russian troops in Eastern Ukraine 'absurd'

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said on Tuesday that there are no Russian military forces in eastern Ukraine and that any claims of their presence there are absurd. "This is an absurd assertion, there are no Russian troops there," the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told a conference call. He suggested that Western governments were deliberately ignoring Russian assurances on this score, saying "one can only express puzzlement that they prefer not to hear all the statements of the Russian side."

Russia could be hit by zero growth in 2014 amid crisis

The Russian economy could be set back to zero growth this year, the finance minister warned on Tuesday amid growing spending on Crimea and capital flight. Finance minister Anton Siluanov said at a government meeting that Russia's economy faced "the most difficult conditions since the 2008 crisis," Russian news agencies reported. "GDP growth is estimated as rather low - 0.5 percent," he said. "Perhaps it will be around zero."

Turkey urges social media companies to have offices

Social media firms operating in Turkey should open offices there and pay taxes, authorities said Tuesday, amid a row with Twitter which the Turkish prime minister has branded "tax evaders". Without mentioning Twitter by name, Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek said social media platforms were dodging taxes if they operated without opening a physical office. "When you take a look at double taxation agreements, a foreign taxpayer must have an office in order to pay tax," Simsek said. "Social media companies must definitely open a representative office here," he added.

Japan says no decision on 2015-16 whaling

Japan on Monday insisted it had made no decision on whether to resume whaling in the Southern Ocean next year, after a militant environmental group said Tokyo intended to evade an international court ruling. Tokyo this month said it was "deeply disappointed" that the UN's top court declared the annual Antarctic whaling hunt was a commercial activity disguised as science, but was calling the 2014-15 hunt off.

Magnitude 7.5 quake strikes off Solomon Islands

A powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 7.5 struck off the Solomon Islands Sunday night, hours after a 7.6 tremor, the US Geological Survey said. A tsunami warning has been issued for the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said. The Center said the warning was issued based on the magnitude of the quake, and is was not known whether a tsunami had in fact been generated.

Ukraine accuses Russia of 'act of aggression'

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine considered attacks by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine on Saturday as an "act of aggression by Russia", Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said. "Units of the interior and defense ministries are implementing an operational response plan," he said in a statement on his Facebook page. (Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Powerful 7.6 quake strikes off Solomon Islands

A powerful 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck off the Solomon Islands early Sunday, US officials said, while the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission put out a tsunami warning for the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea. The US Geological Survey said the quake was measured at a depth of around 29 kilometres (18 miles) and was about 300 kilometres from Solomon Islands' capital Honiara. lto/hmn
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