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EL PAIS (Spain), CLARIN (Argentina), REUTERS

Worldcrunch

MADRID - The showdown over Spain's tottering economy continued Thursday, as embattled Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy unveiled a 13-billion euro package of austerity measures.

After a six-hour cabinet meeting, Rajoy's government emerged with details of the budget for 2013, which appeared as a last ditch attempt to avoid a bailout, Reuters reported.

Facing one of the largest deficits in the beleagured euro zone, Spain will slash its ministry budgets by 8.9 percent and freeze public-sector wages for a third consecutive year.

Tensions remained high following Tuesday’s violent clashes between police and anti-austerity protestors, who tried to surround the Congress building in Madrid in opposition against looming budget cuts.

Spanish authorities have taken a hard-line approach with the protestors, dozens of whom were bloodied and beaten this week during clashes with riot police. Government officials congratulated police for their handling of the situation. Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Días blamed “extremely violent” demonstrators for the clashes.

Protestors shot back, accusing the government of a clear case of police repression. Lashing out at what they describe as the “repressive agents of the regime,” members of a protest group called Plataforma En Pie said the police crack down was “unjustified” and caused “many injuries, including to a man in serious condition.”

Speaking Wednesday from New York, where he is participating in the UN General Assembly, Spanish President Mariano Rajoy criticized the “indignados,” as the protestors have been dubbed, and praised the quiet “majority of Spaniards who don’t protest, who don’t end up on the front pages of the newspapers,” El Pais reported.

But sure to raise tensions was Rajoy himself very much on the front page of the papers. The conservative leader, who has a reputation for high-end tastes, was immortalized enjoying a cigar on New York's Sixth Avenue just as his government prepared to unveil the harsh austerity measures.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Along The "New Border" Of Ukraine, Annexation Has Just Doubled The Danger

Vladimir Putin announced the annexation of Ukrainian territories in a ceremony in the Kremlin. In a village just a few kilometers away from what is now the Ukraine-Russia "border" in Putin's eyes, life continues amid constant shelling and the fear of what comes next.

Ukrainian soldiers are stationed in the village of Inhulka, near Kherson.

Stefan Schocher

INHULKA — The trail leads over a gravel road, a rickety pontoon bridge past a checkpoint. Here in the remote village of Inhulka near Kherson in southern Ukraine, soldiers sit in front of the village shop. Inside, two women run back and forth behind the counter, making coffee, selling sausages, weighing tomatoes. "Natalochka, where are the cookies," calls a dark-haired lady across the room.

But Natalochka, her colleague, is about to lose her nerve. "What kind of life is that?" she says, finally reaching up to grab the cookies from the top of a shelf. What kind of life can it be, she asks, when something is constantly exploding next to you and you don't know if you'll wake up in the morning.

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Inhulka is the center of a rural community. 1,587 inhabitants, as the village chief says, one school, one kindergarten, one doctor, two stores. Since March, nothing here is as it used to be. That was when the Russian army came to the village.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

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