World briefs: Russian calls sanctions 'evil'

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MOSCOW — Russian policymakers warned Thursday of grave international financial consequences from a new, stronger round of U.S. sanctions over the Ukraine conflict, a sign that the measures may be inflicting pain not just on key individuals but on a broader swath of Russia’s economy.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called the sanctions “evil” and warned of plans to bolster spending on defense and security in response. Russia’s stock market dropped sharply Thursday after the U.S. decision a day earlier to target major Russian banks, energy companies and defense firms with tough restrictions on their finances.

Previous rounds of sanctions had targeted individuals close to the Kremlin in an attempt to influence the escalating separatist conflict in Ukraine, which U.S. officials have said Russia is fueling with weaponry and support.

Afghan recount, attack

KABUL — Afghan election officials on Thursday began a nationwide recount of ballots casts in last month’s disputed June 15 presidential runoff vote, just hours after Taliban insurgents staged a predawn attack on Kabul International Airport.

The raid by four gunmen, one of the most brazen militant assaults in recent months, underscored Afghanistan’s mounting political and security woes as foreign troops prepare to withdraw by the end of the year. Fighter jets swooped over the city as Afghan forces fought and eventually killed the militants in a four-hour gun battle.

Social media probed

WASHINGTON — The inspector general for the nation’s international aid agency is probing a once-secret Obama administration program that created a social media network in Cuba, The Associated Press has learned.

The review centers on the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Twitter-like service in Cuba, which was meant to circumvent Internet restrictions on the island and undermine the government. USAID has been criticized for using the program to conduct overt political messaging and for not fully informing Congress about the scope of its work there.

Search copter crashes

SEOUL, South Korea — A fire department helicopter returning from a search for victims from the April ferry sinking that left hundreds of South Koreans dead crashed Thursday in the city of Gwangju, killing all five people on board.

The helicopter crew, from the fire department of Gangwon province in the northeast, had joined a search in southwestern South Korean waters for 11 victims still missing from the April 16 sinking of the Sewol ferry, which killed more than 290 people, most of them high school students.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known.

Pollution levy switch

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s decision to repeal its levy limiting fossil-fuel pollution makes it the first nation to turn back from a market approach to fighting global warming.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government won final approval from Parliament Thursday to scrap a levy about 300 companies paid for their carbon dioxide emissions. The move leaves Australia, the largest polluter per capita among industrial nations, without a system for reducing greenhouse gases as it prepares to host a meeting of the Group of 20 nations.

The about-face sets up Mr. Abbott for a clash with Europe and the United States, which asked for climate policy to be on the G-20 agenda.

— Compiled from wire services

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