Dolzhansky (Ukraine) (AFP) - Ukraine said Thursday it had abandoned three checkpoints on the Russian border after a series of night-time attacks by separatists, and AFP reporters on the scene said at least one had been taken over by the militants. The three checkpoints, all in the volatile Lugansk region, were targeted in attacks by pro-Russian rebels overnight Wednesday to Thursday, the border guards said in a statement. "After an exchange of fire, the threat to the lives of people crossing the border prompted the evacuation of civilians and border guards at the checkpoints," the statement said. On Thursday afternoon, Ukraine's blue-and-yellow flag no longer flew over the border post at Dolzhansky after it had been taken over by about 10 armed pro-Russian rebels who allowed vehicles to pass in both directions.
A second wave of Rwandan rebels from a group linked to the 1994 genocide in their homeland will turn themselves in on June 9 in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a leader of the group said Thursday. The Hutu rebels are members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) which includes remnants of the militia, now based in the DRC, that carried out the genocide of at least 800,000 ethnic Tutsis, according to the United Nations. North Kivu's governor said they would now be given a choice between returning to Rwanda or seeking asylum in the DRC. Wilson Irategeka, interim executive secretary of the FDLR, said there would now be "more ceremonies" in which rebels will surrender.
A Venezuelan opposition leader has been ordered to stand trial on charges of instigating violence at an anti-government demonstration in February, prosecutors said Thursday. A judge ruled that Leopoldo Lopez, who has been in custody for more than three months, should stand trial over his alleged role in violence that broke out during a rally against the government of Nicolas Maduro on February 12. Separately, another prominent opposition leader and Lopez ally, Maria Corina Machado, said she has been summoned for questioning Monday in an alleged plot to assassinate Maduro. Machado, who was ousted from her seat in the National Assembly in March, has been accused by leaders of the ruling United Socialist Party of plotting a coup and Maduro's murder, on the basis of what they asserted were incriminating emails among a handful of opposition leaders.
Maiduguri (Nigeria) (AFP) - Forty-five people were killed by suspected Boko Haram gunmen pretending to be preachers in a village near the group's spiritual home in northeast Nigeria, two residents said on Thursday. The attack happened at about 9:30 pm (2030 GMT) on Wednesday in Barderi, on the outskirts of Maiduguri, and saw insurgents hoodwink locals into congregating before opening fire on the crowd. Itinerant preaching is commonplace in mainly Muslim northern Nigeria and the fake clerics reportedly told villagers that they had come to show them "the righteous path". Mallam Bunu, who survived the attack, said: "I counted 45 bodies after the attackers left the village.
Caen (France) (AFP) - D-Day veterans marched back to Normandy's beaches and villages on Thursday, in an emotional return to mark 70 years since the launch of the biggest amphibious invasion in military history. Royals, top brass and some 20 world leaders, including US President Barack Obama and Russia's Vladimir Putin, will attend the main D-Day ceremony on Friday, with the diplomatic wrangling over the Ukraine crisis acting as an awkward undercurrent to proceedings.
President Barack Obama vehemently refused to apologise Thursday for doing a prisoner trade with the Taliban to free a US soldier, despite a fierce political storm over the deal in Washington. Critics, both Republican and Democratic, have asked whether the transfer of five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay for the release of US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was even legal, and question both the price paid and the principle of a swap. But Obama, asked about the row raging in Washington at the G7 summit in Brussels was unapologetic, repeating that he had a duty as commander-in-chief to get Bergdahl home. "I'm never surprised by the controversies that are whipped up in Washington," Obama said.