Families of Russian troops captured, killed or missing in Ukraine want answers
on their fate
MOSCOW (AP) -- The last time Valeria Sokolova saw her husband, the 25-year-old paratrooper told her that he and his fellow soldiers were heading for military exercises in southern Russia, near the Ukrainian border.
"He was vague in a way that was very unusual, and it was hard for all of them to say goodbye," Sokolova told The Associated Press, recounting their conversation from earlier this month.
On Monday, 10 men from his division were captured in eastern Ukraine amid fighting between pro-Moscow separatists and Ukrainian troops. At least two others from the division were killed and an unspecified number were wounded.
Sokolova, the mother of a 6-year-old boy, does not know the fate of her husband, and she said Russian military officials have released no information about the servicemen. She fears for his safety.
Similar questions are being raised by families of other Russian servicemen about unexplained deaths and missing or captured soldiers who are said to be on military exercises. The answers could undermine public support for President Vladimir Putin and his policies in Ukraine.
Mexico’s new enforcement cuts off route for
family and child migrants
CHAHUITES, Mexico (AP) -- Mexico’s largest crackdown in decades on illegal migration has decreased the flow of Central Americans trying to reach the United States, and has dramatically cut the number of child migrants and families, according to officials and eyewitness accounts along the perilous route.
Convoys of Mexican federal police and immigration service employees in southern Mexico have begun scouring the tracks of the infamous freight train known as "La Bestia," or The Beast, that has long carried crowds of migrants on its lumbering route north. They have also set up moving roadblocks, checking the documents of passengers on interstate buses.
Associated Press journalists witnessed dozens of federal police and Mexican immigration agents storming the train as it came to an unscheduled stop in the post-midnight darkness Friday.
"We’re federal agents! Give up! You’re surrounded! Come down carefully!" the lawmen shouted to the huddled, stunned migrants.
Fewer than 15 were detained on a train that once carried 600 to 1,000 migrants at a time.
Mexico authorities stage midnight raid on migrants heading north on freight train ‘The Beast’
SAN RAMON, Mexico (AP) -- The lumbering freight train known as "The Beast," a key part of the route for migrants heading north to the United States, rolled to an abrupt, unscheduled stop in the black of midnight.
Mexican federal police and immigration agents had waited silently in the brush alongside for at least hour, visible only by the glint of their powerful flashlights.
As the train stopped, the area was suddenly flooded with spotlights as agents pounced from both sides of the track, scaling ladders to the tops of the freight cars and shouting: "Federal police! Give up! You’re surrounded! Come down carefully!"
About a dozen men, some literally spitting with anger and desperation, were firmly led off the track, an agent’s hand on the back of their necks neck, and taken to waiting vans for processing and deportation. Agents helped a lone female migrant clambering over a coupling between cars to reach their van, telling her "Walk carefully, don’t fall."
"Don’t touch me," she snarled.
Intelligence nightmare: Extremists hardened from Mideast battles fly home
on Western passports
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The case of Mehdi Nemmouche haunts U.S. intelligence officials.
Nemmouche is a Frenchman who authorities say spent 11 months fighting with the Islamic State group in Syria before returning to Europe to act out his rage. On May 24, prosecutors say, he methodically shot four people at the Jewish Museum in central Brussels. Three died instantly, one afterward. Nemmouche was arrested later, apparently by chance.
For U.S. and European counterterrorism officials, that 90-second spasm of violence is the kind of attack they fear from thousands of Europeans and up to 100 Americans who have gone to fight for extremist armies in Syria and now Iraq.
The Obama administration has offered a wide range of assessments of the threat to U.S. national security posed by the extremists who say they’ve established a caliphate, or Islamic state, in an area straddling eastern Syrian and northern and western Iraq, and whose actions include last week’s beheading of American journalist James Foley. Some officials say the group is more dangerous than al-Qaida. Yet intelligence assessments say it currently couldn’t pull off a complex, 9-11-style attack on the U.S. or Europe.
However, there is broad agreement across intelligence and law enforcement agencies of the immediate threat from radicalized Europeans and Americans who could come home to conduct lone-wolf operations. Such plots are difficult to detect because they don’t require large conspiracies of people whose emails or phone calls can be intercepted.
Billion-dollar Russian fund with U.S. and EU advisers shows dilemma facing sanctions expansion
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Western business connections are complicating efforts to bring economic sanctions against executives and companies closely aligned with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. A prime example: the Russian Direct Investment Fund, a $10 billion sovereign wealth fund that’s escaped sanctions in spite of international efforts to punish Russia for its incursions in Ukraine.
A sanctioned Russian bank funds the RDIF, and a top Putin aide serves on one of its board. The fund’s international advisory board, meanwhile, is stocked with blue-chip American and European private equity executives, among them Stephen Schwarzman of The Blackstone Group LP, Leon Black of Apollo Global Management LLC and David Bonderman of TPG Capital LP.
The chief executive of a French state-controlled investment company, Caisses de Depots, is listed as one of its supervisors -- as is former International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
The fund has done deals with BlackRock Inc. and General Electric Co., which partnered with the fund to build small power plants for industrial users across Russia. JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s One Equity Partners joined an Illinois tire company to buy a manufacturer of agricultural and industrial tires. European investors took stakes in telecommunications firms, information technology consultants and health care companies. In total, more than $6 billion from blue-chip foreign companies have flowed in.
President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are considering new economic sanctions against Russia over its apparent invasion of Ukraine. There is no evidence that the Russian Direct Investment Fund would be a target, but the situation with the sanctions-free RDIF illustrates the Obama administration’s struggle to achieve conflicting goals -- punishing Putin’s circle without damaging U.S.companies doing business in Russia.
Russian-backed separatists aim to push west along Ukraine’s coast; EU to discuss new sanctions
NOVOAZOVSK, Ukraine (AP) -- Their tanks bearing the flag of their would-be state, Russian-backed separatists held control Friday over this coastal town on the new front in the Ukraine conflict and announced their intention to keep pushing west toward a major port city.
None of the half-dozen tanks seen by Associated Press reporters in the town of about 12,000 people bore Russian markings, but the packaging on their field rations said they were issued by the Russian army.
The Ukrainian government the day before accused Russia of sending tanks, artillery and troops across the border, and NATO estimated at least 1,000 Russian troops were in Ukraine.
As tensions rose, European Union foreign ministers called for heavier sanctions against Moscow ahead of Saturday’s summit of EU leaders in Brussels. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was invited to address the summit.
The rebels denied they are getting Russian military vehicles.
Liberia to lift cordon around neighborhood sealed off to stop Ebola’s spread
DAKAR, Senegal (AP) -- Liberia says it will open up a slum in its capital where thousands of people were barricaded to contain the spread of Ebola.
Information Minister Lewis Brown says lifting the quarantine Saturday morning will not mean there is no Ebola in the West Point Slum.
But authorities feel confident they can screen for the sick and that the community now actively fighting the disease.
The slum of 50,000 people in Liberia’s capital was sealed off more than a week ago, sparking unrest and leaving many without access to food or safe water.
Obama’s tan suit for talk about military intervention set social media abuzz
NEW YORK (AP) -- Quick! What exactly did President Barack Obama say from the White House briefing room about Syria, Iraq and Ukraine while dressed in the tan suit buzzed ‘round the world?
Precisely. At least if you get all your news from social media.
Obama’s summer fashion choice, not unprecedented among presidents -- himself included -- was the talk of social media Thursday. It was both defended as a perfectly appropriate seasonal look and criticized as too big and wholly unpresidential for such serious subject matter.
The Twitter jeers flew: "Taupe and change," one said. Another tweeter riffed off the title of his book with "The audacity of taupe."
While Obama usually dresses in traditional power dark suits, he did don tan for Easter this year. But not while discussing possible U.S. military intervention in the Middle East.
Rescuers locate 20 of at least 24 trapped in gold mine landslide in Nicaragua
BONANZA, Nicaragua (AP) -- Rescuers on Friday located 20 of at least 24 freelance gold miners trapped underground by a landslide in northern Nicaragua, but were not immediately able to bring them to safety.
Teams of dogs helped locate the 20 miners, and rescue workers were laboring to get them out, said Milagros Solorzano of the ruling Sandinista Party in the community of Bonanza.
Soloranzo told local Channel 8 that the 20 miners were located in a kind of cave inside the mine and have been able to communicate with rescue workers. They said they didn’t know the whereabouts of the other four.
Relatives of the trapped miners gathered Friday on the margins of the rescue operation. Friends held up Margarita Mendez, who looked like she was going to faint as she awaited news about her son, Salvador Urbina.
The slide occurred Thursday at the El Comal gold and silver mine operated by Hemco in the town of Bonanza, about 260 miles (420 kilometers) northeast of Managua.