EU EXTENDS UKRAINE SANCTIONS
European foreign ministers agreed yesterday to extend EU sanctions against Russia until the end of January 2016 "to complete implementation" of the shaky Minsk ceasefire agreements, EU Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic wrote on Twitter. The decision came as French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met President Vladimir Putin and lamented the "lack of progress" towards a final resolution in the Ukraine conflict,Le Figaro reports. Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine are scheduled to meet later today in Paris.
In an interview with the BBC, deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych reflects on the Maidan square bloodshed and the revolution that ultimately ousted him from power. Although he admitted there was corruption under his leadership, he denied embezzling funds from the Ukrainian state. "A year and a half has passed, those in power have all the means at their disposal," he said. "Show us, where are the bank accounts of Yanukovych? They don't exist and never have."
U.S.-CHINA BEGIN TENSE TALKS
Senior diplomats representing the world's two leading economies will meet in Washington today for the seventh annual summit on political, security and economic issues. But the U.S.-China dialogue is expected to be held "under a cloud of mistrust and acrimony," The Wall Street Journal reports, given security tensions between the two countries over the South China Sea and cyberspace. "The relationship between the United States and China is extremely broad," a State Department official said. "It's also extremely complicated." Secretary of State John Kerry will begin the talks when he meets China's State Councilor Yang Jiechi, Kerry's first official public appearance since his bike accident.
The mood in China regarding its controversial Dog Meat Festival, which started yesterday, is starting to change. It is facing its largest-ever campaign to stop it, and a recent poll showed that 87.9% of respondents support introducing legislation to ban animal abuse, Xinhua reports. As many as 10,000 dogs are expected to be slaughtered during the two-day festival.
RENEWED HOPES FOR A GREEK DEAL
The mood in Brussels has significantly improved, and European leaders regard the Greek reform proposals offered yesterday as "progress," paving the way for a possible agreement at the next Eurogroup summit Thursday, Greek Reporter writes. A deal would see Athens receive more emergency funds, allowing it to make a $1.8 billion payment due at the end of the month to the IMF. In exchange, the government pledged more pension and tax reforms.
The Dominican Republic will send a delegation to Haiti to discuss the deportation of Haitian citizens from the country, today's edition of El Caribe reports. The migration minister announced that the administration would consult with its neighbor before expelling Haitians illegally residing in the country. Hundreds of thousands of Haitians live in the Dominican Republic, where many have lived for years, while others have arrived more recently because of the 2010 earthquake and ensuing economic crisis in their home country. Read more in our Extra! feature.
KURDS DEFEAT ISIS NEAR SYRIAN STRONGHOLD
A coalition force made of the Kurdish Popular Protection Units and other rebel groups backed by U.S.-led airstrikes have earned a significant win over ISIS, pushing the group "back to the gates of Raqqa," a spokesman for the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. After taking control of a key military base yesterday, Kurdish fighters are now strongly established deep into ISIS territory and just 30 miles away from the caliphate's proclaimed capital of Raqqa. Read more from The Independent.
"I extend my thanks and appreciation to the honest and honorable judges of Germany," Al Jazeera journalist Ahmed Mansour said after a German court ruled against his extradition to Egypt and in favor of his release.
TWIN SUICIDE BLASTS HIT NIGERIAN CITY
At least 35 people were killed in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri yesterday afternoon after two female suicide bombers detonated their explosives near a fish market as a Muslim crowd was preparing for prayer, newspaper Vanguard reports. Islamist sect Boko Haram is being blamed for the violence amid fears that militants are using captives to carry out their operations. According to an expert AP interviewed, most bombs attached to girls or women have remote detonation devices, meaning the carrier cannot control the explosion.
ON THIS DAY
PAKISTAN HEAT WAVE CREATES EMERGENCY
The government in Pakistan's Sindh province has taken emergency health measures as the devastating heat wave continues. According to Dawn, at least 445 people have died since Saturday, including 309 yesterday alone. Opposition parties have called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to observe Friday as a day of mourning for the victims.
If it wants to grow in a balanced way, Russia shouldn't think that a rash of new agreements with China will permit it to forsake the West, Fedor Lukyanov writes for Kommersant. "Russia has always liked to juggle the East and West roles, trying to adopt postures that fall somewhere between the two political and cultural poles," he writes. "But in the past 300 years, Russia has never genuinely managed to position itself between. Before the 20th century, Russia was an undisputed player in greater European politics, while China did not yet represent a world power. During the 20th century, Russia became part of the East."
Read the full article, Russia Can't Afford To Choose Between East and West.
JAMES HORNER DIES IN PLANE CRASH
Film composer James Horner, famous for his work on Titanic and Braveheart, was killed in a plane crash near Santa Barbara yesterday. The two-time Oscar winner was 61.
"CYBORG" WINS UK DESIGN OF THE YEAR
Animal and human drug testing could soon become a relic of the past after two scientists developed a microchip cyborg made from a human organ. The pair won the London-based Design Museum's Design of the Year award. Read more from the Financial Times.