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Fighting goes on, state of emergency declared

DONETSK, Ukraine – The shattered remains of a tank bearing a tattered Ukrainian flag sat beside the main highway to Mariupol on Monday, a remnant of what pro-Russian rebel forces said was a failed attempt by Ukrainian forces to push into rebel-held territory a few days after a shelling attack left 30 dead in that port city.

With a cease-fire in shreds, pro-Russian separatist forces mounting regular new attacks and the Ukrainian military struggling to rebound from losses at the Donetsk airport last week, eastern Ukraine is seeing by far the heaviest fighting since August. Thunderous artillery blasts could be heard from several directions Monday in the largely isolated city of Donetsk.

The Ukrainian government declared a state of emergency Monday in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the areas controlled by the rebels, and put the entire country on high alert.

– New York Times


Parliament praised for approval of law

KINSHASA, Congo (Bloomberg News) – The United Nations and United States on Monday praised the Democratic Republic of Congo’s parliament for approving an amended version of an electoral law as calm returned to the capital, Kinshasa, after protests last week that left as many as 40 people dead.

A commission of senators and deputies voted Sunday to approve a law that no longer requires a census to be completed before elections in 2016. The amendment came after four days of protests in the capital and in the east of the country. Opposition members said the delay would allow President Joseph Kabila to extend his rule.

“The wisdom used by members of parliament to find a solution that reconciles all the different positions is remarkable and healthy,” UN Chief of Mission Martin Kobler said on his Twitter account and U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the chamber’s approval showed “critical, albeit initial, steps towards national elections in 2016.”


Obama watches parade on Republic Day

NEW DELHI – There were elaborate floats and colorfully attired children dancing, ornate floral displays and lots of soldiers, tanks and missiles. Even a camel-mounted military force complete with its own marching band.

And for the first time in history, a U.S. president in a place of honor to witness all of the grandeur that is India’s Republic Day, which celebrates India’s transformation from colony to independent nation and the adoption of its constitution in 1950.

President Obama on Monday served as the chief guest of one of this country’s most patriotic holidays, a reminder of the inextricable tie the world’s two largest democracies share despite a sometimes tense relationship.

Obama, accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama, was honored at a State Dinner Sunday night at Rashtrapati Bhaavan, India’s vast presidential palace, and then watched the main event, the boisterous two-hour parade. No U.S. president had ever been invited to India for the event. Past guests have included Russian President Vladimir V.Putin and Iranian President Mohammad Khatami.

– McClatchy Newspapers