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Russia holds snap military drills in Caspian Sea: report

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's navy launched snap military exercises involving its fleet in the Caspian Sea, Interfax reported the Defense Ministry as saying on Wednesday. The drill will last seven days and involve around 10 naval vessels and 400 sailors. The Caspian Sea is bordered by Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, and the region is crisscrossed by oil and natural gas pipelines. Russia has boosted the number of snap military drills since tensions have risen with neighbor Ukraine.

Iceland sends record 2,000 tons of finback whale meat to Japan

An Icelandic whaling firm has sent 2,000 tons of finback whale meat to Japan, believed to be a record amount in a single shipment, members of environmental groups said Tuesday. The meat left Iceland in March and is expected to reach Japan in early or mid-May, according to Greenpeace and the International Fund for Animal Welfare. It remains unknown where the meat will arrive and who is importing it.

Biden meets Ukraine leaders as Russia, US swap blame on crumbling deal

US Vice President Joe Biden met Ukraine's new pro-Western leaders Tuesday to offer firm American backing as Washington and Moscow traded blame over an unravelling peace deal to defuse the country's deep crisis. Biden began by meeting acting President Oleksandr Turchynov in Kiev's parliament building, with US officials saying that the onus was firmly on Moscow to fulfill the accord meant to reduce tensions in the worst East-West confrontation since the Cold War.

China's new environment law submitted to parliament

BEIJING (Reuters) - Amendments to China's 1989 environmental protection law that will mean stiffer punishments for polluters have been submitted to the country's parliament for deliberation, official news agency Xinhua reported late on Monday. The National People's Congress (NPC), China's legislature, will consider the amendments during its latest bimonthly session, which runs until Thursday this week, Xinhua said.

Biden to meet Ukraine leaders as Russia, US trade jabs over crisis

US Vice President Joe Biden will meet Ukraine's new pro-Western leaders on Tuesday in a symbolic show of America's support for Kiev as Washington and Moscow blamed each other for violating a peace deal to ease the country's crisis. The meetings, on the second day of Biden's two-day visit to Ukraine, take place after the US and Russia put a radically different spin on a crunch telephone call between their diplomatic chiefs on reviving the accord reached last week in Geneva.

Sixty percent of Japanese support whale hunt

Sixty percent of Japanese people support the country's whaling programme, but only 14 percent eat whale meat, a new poll showed Tuesday. The survey comes less than a month after the United Nations' top court ruled the annual mission to the Southern Ocean by Japanese whaling vessels was a commercial hunt masquerading as science in a bid to skirt an international ban. A weekend opinion poll conducted by the liberal Asahi Shimbun newspaper showed that 60 percent of 1,756 voters supported the "research" whaling programme, against 23 percent who opposed it.

Olympics to give Japan chance to show recovery from quake: Abe

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will help Japan show the world how it has recovered from the massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday, as his Cabinet held the first full ministerial meeting to prepare for the Games. The Olympics "will give us momentum to revitalize our country," Abe told the meeting, where the ministers discussed the basic plan for the event that the country's organizing committee will submit to the International Olympic Committee in February next year, officials said.

S.Sudan rebels slaughter 'hundreds' in ethnic massacres

Rebel gunmen in South Sudan massacred "hundreds" of civilians because of their ethnicity when they captured a key oil town last week, the UN said Monday, calling for a probe into one of the worst reported atrocities in the war-torn nation. In the main mosque alone, "more than 200 civilians were reportedly killed and over 400 wounded," the UN mission in the country said. Civilians including children were also massacred at a church, hospital and an abandoned UN World Food Programme compound, it said.

S.Sudan rebels slaughter 'hundreds' in ethnic massacres

Rebel gunmen in South Sudan massacred "hundreds" of civilians because of their ethnicity when they captured a key oil town last week, the UN said Monday, calling for a probe into one of the worst reported atrocities in the war-torn nation. In the main mosque alone, "more than 200 civilians were reportedly killed and over 400 wounded," the UN mission in the country said. Civilians including children were also massacred at a church, hospital and an abandoned UN World Food Programme compound, it said.

Russia to create gambling zone in Crimea

President Vladimir Putin on Monday submitted a bill to parliament that would turn Crimea into a legal gambling zone as Russia seeks ways to lift the Black Sea peninsula out of poverty. Russia has only four official government zones where gambling is legal. Crimea, which was annexed by Russia last month amid international condemnation, would be the fifth such zone. The precise borders of new gambling zone will be determined by regional authorities in "the Republic of Crimea", the bill states.
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