World briefs: NATO pledges Ukraine support

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KIEV, Ukraine — NATO’s chief defied mounting Russian belligerence Thursday with a pledge to provide assistance to Ukraine, which is battling to quash an insurgency being waged by pro-Russia rebels in the country’s east.

The show of support from Anders Fogh Rasmussen in the Ukrainian capital comes as government troops increasingly focus their push to claw back rebel-held territory on the stronghold of Donetsk.

Ukraine appears to be ratcheting up the urgency of its onslaught against the backdrop of an alleged escalation of Russian troop presence on the border.

3 years for Snowden

WASHINGTON — Russia has granted a three-year residency permit to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who has leaked thousands of top-secret documents on the agency’s communications collection programs, his lawyer announced Thursday.

The decision will add new fuel to Cold War-like tensions between Russia and the United States. Mr. Snowden, 31, who is wanted by the U.S. government, could in the future apply for Russian citizenship, lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said.

Kerry presses Afghans

KABUL, Afghanistan — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Afghanistan late Thursday on an unannounced visit to press the country’s two feuding presidential candidates on the urgency of ending a bitter dispute over June elections and forming a new government by early September.

Mr. Kerry’s visit comes as the election results are being audited in a process that he brokered last month. Senior officials traveling with Mr. Kerry said the U.S. wants to see the ultimate winner inaugurated — and a new “chief executive officer” chosen by the loser under the terms of a national unity government compromise — before the upcoming NATO summit in Wales Sept. 4.

Closing arguments

PRETORIA, South Africa — The murder trial of Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee sprinter accused of killing his girlfriend in a fit of rage, entered a decisive stage Thursday as lawyers began two days of final arguments at the High Court in Pretoria before handing over the case to the presiding judge.

Prosecutors have argued that Mr. Pistorius, 27, fatally shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and law school graduate, through a locked bathroom door after an argument on Feb. 14, 2013, inside his home in Pretoria. The defense team has argued that he fired four rounds from a handgun in the mistaken belief that an intruder had entered his home and was in the bathroom.

Plane crash probed

PARIS — The Air Algerie jetliner that crashed in Mali last month, killing 116 people, disintegrated when it hit the ground, though a “deliberate act” of sabotage can’t yet be ruled out, safety experts said Thursday.

A dysfunctional cockpit voice recorder is slowing the probe as work continues to establish if stormy weather in the area on the fringes of the Sahara desert was to blame, the BEA, France’s air-accident investigator, said.

‘Hate speech’ addressed

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday he wants the issue of “hate speech” in Japan dealt with properly after a rise in verbal attacks against ethnic Koreans and other minorities.

Mr. Abe made the comment in a meeting with Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe, who met South Korean President Park Geun-hye on a recent trip to Seoul, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters. Mr. Masuzoe told Mr. Abe that these verbal attacks were an affront to democracy and a shameful problem for a city preparing to host the Olympics in 2020.


— Compiled from wire reports


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