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U.S. demands ‘concrete steps’ by Moscow on Ukraine

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday urged Russia to take “concrete steps” to implement an agreement on defusing the crisis in Ukraine.

The accord, struck last week in Geneva, was meant to lower the heat on the worst confrontation between Washington and Moscow since the Cold War, but each side has accused the other of violating it.

In a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Kerry said the steps should include “publicly calling on separatists to vacate illegal buildings and checkpoints, accept amnesty and address their grievances politically,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

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“He also called on Russia to assign a senior diplomat to work with the OSCE mission in eastern Ukraine, to make absolutely clear to the separatists that Russia supports the agreement and wants de-escalation.

“He also called on Russia to speak out against the seizing of journalists and other innocents as hostages,” she said.

U.S. President Barack Obama has threatened to slap more sanctions on Moscow, beyond ones already imposed by the United States and the European Union targeting the inner circle of Russian President Vladimir Putin, if the pact is not implemented soon.

White House press secretary Jay Carney insisted Washington was ready to make good on its threat, warning that “if progress is not made in coming days we will impose further costs” on Russia.

Carney however declined to provide a deadline for action.

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Kerry’s conversation with Lavrov came as US Vice President Joe Biden began a two-day visit to Kiev in a show of support for its government.

The Geneva accord, signed by Ukraine, Russia, the United States and the EU, calls for all “illegal armed groups” in Ukraine to surrender their weapons and halt the occupation of public buildings and other sites.

But a brief Easter truce was broken on Sunday when two insurgents were killed in the rebel-held eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk.

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Carney said the United States could not independently confirm who initiated the clash, said to have occurred at a roadblock manned by the separatists.

But he stressed Washington continued to lay blame for much of the unrest in eastern Ukraine at the feet of Kremlin-backed forces.

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“We’re still assessing the events of the weekend, but there’s no question that the overall situation has been greatly worsened by the intervention of armed militants who have seized buildings, stockpiled weapons, blockaded roads and done so in the name of either joining Russia or being independent and being generally pro-Russia,” Carney said.

“Russia has influence over the groups that have engaged in that activity… and we continue to call on Russia to use that influence to pressure those groups to disarm and to return the buildings to authorities.”

[Image via Agence France-Presse]


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WATCH: Franklin Graham tells Jeanine Pirro coronavirus pandemic is because of people sinning

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Franklin Graham blamed sinners for the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic during a Saturday night appearance on Fox News.

Host Jeanine Pirro noted the growing death toll and wondered how God could let that happen.

"Well, I don't think it's God's plan for this to happen," Graham said.

"It's because of the sin that's in the world, judge," he argued.

"Man has turned his back on God, we have sinned against him, and we need to ask for God's forgiveness and that's what Easter's all about," he continued.

"This pandemic, this is the result of a fallen world that has turned its back on God," he added.

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Drought causing water shortage amid coronavirus crisis in Chile

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With historically low river flows and reservoirs running dry due to drought, people in central Chile have found themselves particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic.

Years of resource exploitation and lax legislation have allowed most reservoirs in that part of the country to run dry.

"There are now 400,000 families, nearly 1.5 million people approximately, whose supply of 50 liters of water a day depends on tankers," Rodrigo Mundaca, spokesman for the Movement for the Defense of Water, the Earth and the Protection of the Environment, told AFP.

One of the main pieces of advice to protect people against coronavirus is to wash your hands regularly.

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Trump warns of ‘tough week’ ahead — after the United States surpassed 300,000 coronavirus victims

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US President Donald Trump warned Americans on Saturday to brace for a "very horrendous" number of coronavirus deaths in the coming days as the total number of global fatalities from the pandemic soared past 60,000.

As confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States surpassed 300,000 with more than 8,300 deaths, there was some encouraging news in Italy and Spain.

Europe continues to bear the brunt of the epidemic, however, accounting for over 45,000 of the worldwide deaths, and Britain reported a new daily high in fatalities.

There are now more than 1.17 million confirmed coronavirus cases around the world and there have been 63,437 deaths since the virus emerged in China late last year.

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