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. In Moscow, the patriarch of the Russian Church, Kirill, in a prayer for Ukraine called on God in turn to put "an end to the designs of those who want to destroy Holy Russia". Kirill said that while Ukraine was "politically" separate, "spiritually and historically" it was at one with Russia, and he prayed that it benefit from authorities that are "legitimately elected".
An Uzbek doctor kidnapped in northern Yemen last week has been freed, a provincial official said on Saturday. Kidnapping is common in U.S.-allied Yemen, where the government is struggling with an array of security problems: an insurgency by Islamists linked to al Qaeda, a southern separatist movement, fighting in the country's north, and sporadic conflicts with armed tribes. On Saturday an air strike killed 10 al Qaeda militants and three civilians in central Yemen.
Two people were killed in a car that blew up in a mainly Shi'ite village in Bahrain on Saturday, and the interior ministry said the initial investigation showed that a homemade bomb had detonated inside the vehicle. Sunni-ruled Bahrain has been hit by several small bombings in recent weeks as the kingdom struggles to end simmering unrest among its Shi'ite Muslim majority, which rose up unsuccessfully in an Arab Spring-inspired revolt in 2011. A third person was wounded and was being treated in hospital for second-degree burns, the statement said, citing the health ministry. Bahrain's Shi'ites want political reforms and an end to alleged discrimination against them, which the government denies.
Four French journalists taken hostage in Syria last year were freed on Saturday after a 10-month ordeal in the world's most dangerous country for the media. French President Francois Hollande announced the release of Edouard Elias, Didier Francois, Nicolas Henin and Pierre Torres, saying they were "in good health despite the very challenging conditions of their captivity". Turkish soldiers found the four men abandoned in no-man's land on the border with Syria overnight, wearing blindfolds and with their hands bound, the Turkish news agency Dogan reported. They had been captured in two separate incidents in June last year while covering the conflict in Syria.
TOREZ (Ukraine) (AFP) - The newspaper's edition was set, ready to print, when the assailants came at 2 o'clock in the morning, Molotov cocktails in hand. That, the daily's director Igor Abyzov tells AFP, was the attack suffered in the early hours of last Thursday by his publication Pro Gorod, the only newspaper in east Ukraine that is opposed to the pro-Russian separatist surge that has erupted in the region. Abyzov, who stands using a crutch after two thugs beat him up and broke one of his legs, said that "we are for the unity of Ukraine and against separatism". "It's a little frightening to work under these conditions," admitted Anton Grabovski, one of the paper's journalists.
Libyan voters went to the polls on Saturday to elect municipal council members in 15 cities, including Benghazi, the country's second city, which is seeking greater autonomy for the eastern seaboard region. Benghazi has until now had only an interim council with piecemeal funding from central government, but the election is meant to pave the way for fuller and more regular allocations, potentially improving the volatile city's relationship with Tripoli. Militias in Libya have become increasingly powerful and violent. In Libya's eastern cities, mainly Benghazi and Derna, around 200 people have been killed since early 2013, according to activists and local army officials.
Sale will play in next season's European Rugby Champions Cup after making sure of sixth place in the English Premiership table with a 55-12 win away to Exeter on Saturday. The Champions Cup will replace the European Cup and the top six teams in the Premiership are guaranteed a place among the continent's elite. "That was obviously one of our aims from today because there was a bit of pressure on us having played well all season," said Sale boss Steve Diamond. Sale scored eight tries as the Chiefs suffered their heaviest defeat in four seasons in the Premiership.
LONDON (AP) — Chelsea suffered a major setback to its Premier League title aspirations with a 2-1 loss against last-placed Sunderland on Saturday, ending Jose Mourinho's 77-match unbeaten home run during two spells in charge at Stamford Bridge.
CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) — Authorities in the U.S. Virgin Islands say an off-duty police officer has been wounded while confronting three men suspected of killing a man at a nightclub in St. Croix.
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church led prayers in Moscow for the Russians of Ukraine on Saturday, condemning those who he said wanted to "destroy Holy Russia". "Ukraine is politically a foreign country (but) spiritually and historically that was never the case," Patriarch Kirill said before the start of observances on the eve of Orthodox Easter at Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral. "We must today pray for the Russian people who live in Ukraine, for the Lord to bring peace to the Ukrainian land ... that he brings an end to the designs of those who want to destroy Holy Russia," Kirill said.
By Mohamed Ghobari SANAA (Reuters) - An air strike killed 10 al Qaeda militants in central Yemen on Saturday after an intelligence report said they were planning attacks on civil and military targets in al-Bayda province, the state news agency Saba said. Saba quoted an official source in the High Security Committee as saying that the strike hit the militants, described as "among the dangerous and leading elements of al Qaeda", in a car as they were on their way to the central province. Ten al Qaeda militants were killed and one was wounded, the source said, while three civilians were also killed and five were wounded because they happened to be in a nearby vehicle. "This happened after security bodies received confirmed intelligence information about the presence of a car with 11 terrorist elements on board who were planning to target vital civil and military institutions in al-Bayda province," Saba cited the source as saying.
PARIS (AP) — Ten months after their capture in Syria, four French journalists crossed the border into neighboring Turkey and reached freedom Saturday, though dozens more remain held in the country's chaotic civil war.
Gunmen have kidnapped three workers including a Chinese and an Algerian from an oilfield in Sudan's West Kordofan province, the army said Saturday. "Armed men yesterday (Friday) attacked the Kanar field in West Kordofan and abducted three workers -- a Sudanese, a Chinese and an Algerian," spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad told AFP. West Kordofan borders the province of South Kordofan where Sudanese government forces have been battling rebels for nearly three years. The clashes in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states with fighters of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) have displaced or severely affected 1.1 million people, the United Nations says.
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Islamic extremists Saturday claimed responsibility for the massive rush-hour explosion earlier this week that ripped through a busy bus station in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, killing at least 75 people and wounding 141.
LIMA, Peru (AP) — The clock has run out for an estimated 40,000 illegal gold miners who had until Saturday to legalize their status in a region of southeastern Peru where fortune-seekers have ravaged rainforests and contaminated rivers. The government's vow to enforce a ban on illegal mining is raising fears of bloody confrontations.
By Alastair Macdonald and Aleksandar Vasovic KIEV/DONETSK (Reuters) - A mediator from Europe's OSCE security body headed to eastern Ukraine on Saturday seeking the surrender of pro-Russian separatists as the Kiev government declared an Easter truce following a peace accord with Moscow. Gunmen occupying public buildings in Donetsk and other Russian-speaking border towns refuse to recognize an accord in Geneva on Thursday by which Russia, Ukraine and Kiev's U.S. and EU allies agreed that the OSCE should oversee the disarmament of militants and the evacuation of occupied facilities and streets. ...
Syria has shipped out or destroyed approximately 80 percent of its declared chemical weapons material, the head of the international team overseeing the disarmament process said on Saturday. Sigrid Kaag, special coordinator of the joint mission of the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said if the momentum was sustained, Syria should be able to meet its April 27 deadline to hand over all declared chemical agents. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed with the United States and Russia to dispose of the chemical weapons - an arsenal which Damascus had never formally acknowledged - after hundreds of people were killed in a sarin gas attack on the outskirts of the capital last August. The government blamed the rebel side in Syria's civil war, which is now in its fourth year.
John Sutton grabbed a stoppage time equaliser as Motherwell held Celtic to a dramatic 3-3 draw in a thriller at Fir Park. The home side had raced into an early lead when Efe Ambrose misjudged the flight of a lofted pass to let in Sutton to fire home a fifth minute opener. Kris Commons saw his 22nd minute penalty saved by Gunnar Nielsen before Zane Francis-Angol made it 2-0 when he poked past Fraser Forster in the 44th minute. Anthony Stokes pulled one back for Celtic in first-half stoppage time with an audacious finish before Georgios Samaras prodded home an equaliser in the 56th minute.
US President Barack Obama has urged his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to use his influence to make separatists in eastern Ukraine stand down. The phone call between the two leaders came as pro-Russian activists continued to occupy buildings in eastern towns. For his part, Mr Putin rejected accusations of Russian interference, calling the reports "unreliable". EU foreign ministers said on Monday they would expand a list of names targeted by sanctions. Tension has been steadily rising since Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula, formerly part of Ukraine, last month. The move, condemned as illegal by...