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RUSSIA-UKRAINE - Russia’s Foreign Ministry has rejected a British claim that Russia is seeking to replace Ukraine’s government with a pro-Moscow administration and that former Ukrainian lawmaker Yevheniy Murayev is being considered as a potential candidate. Britain’s Foreign Office on Saturday also named several other Ukrainian politicians it said had links with Russian intelligence services. Murayev is the leader of a small party that has no seats in Ukraine’s parliament. The U.K. government made the claim based on an intelligence assessment without providing evidence to back it up. It comes amid high tensions between Moscow and the West over Russia’s designs on Ukraine. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denied the U.K. accusations on Sunday. By Jim Heintz and Jill Lawless. SENT: 1,050 words, photos. UNITED STATES-UKRAINE — The State Department is ordering the families of all American personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv to leave the country and allowing non-essential staff to leave Ukraine. The move comes amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine despite talks between U.S. and Russian officials. The State Department stresses that the Kyiv embassy will remain open and that the departure of families and some non-essential personnel is not an evacuation. At the same time, officials are warning all Americans against travel to Ukraine as well as to Russia, pointing in part to tensions between those two countries and, in Russia, because of potential harassment of U.S. citizens. By AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee. SENT: 360 words, photos.
UKRAINE-SPHERE OF INFLUENCE — The crisis in Ukraine is hardly going away. A showdown of two world views that could upend Europe, it carries echoes of the Cold War and resurrects an idea left over from the 1945 Yalta Conference: that the West should respect a Russian sphere of influence in Central and Eastern Europe. Since coming to power in 2000, Russian President Vladimir Putin has systematically been bent on repairing what he views as the humiliation of the breakup of the Soviet Union 30 years ago. Russia’s present demands are based in part on Putin’s rejection of Ukraine and Belarus as truly separate, sovereign nations, but rather as part of an historic Russian motherland. By By John Daniszewski. SENT: 1,200 words, photos.
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GEORGE FLOYD-OFFICERS-CIVIL RIGHTS — The federal trial for three former Minneapolis police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights as Derek Chauvin pinned the Black man’s neck to the street is set to begin Monday with opening statements. J. Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao are broadly charged with depriving Floyd of his civil rights while acting under government authority. All three are charged for failing to provide Floyd with medical care. Thao and Kueng face an additional count for failing to stop Chauvin, who was convicted of murder and manslaughter in state court last year. Legal experts say prosecutors must prove Kueng, Lane and Thao willfully violated Floyd’s constitutional rights. Defense attorneys are likely to blame Chauvin for the killing. By Amy Forliti and Steve Karnowski. SENT: 530 words, photos.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-CHINA - Chinese authorities have lifted a monthlong lockdown of Xi’an and its 13 million residents as infections subside ahead of the Winter Olympics in Beijing in less than two weeks. Meanwhile, the 2 million residents of one Beijing district are being tested following a series of cases in the capital. SENT: 570 words, photos.
AFGHANISTAN AID-EXPLAINER – As winter deepens, a grim situation in Afghanistan is getting worse. Freezing temperatures are compounding misery from the downward spiral that has come with the fall of the U.S.-backed government and the Taliban takeover. An estimated 23 million people, half the country, face severe hunger and nearly 9 million are on the brink of starvation. By Ben Fox. SENT: 1,060 words, photos.
BURKINO FASO-MILITARY — Residents in Burkina Faso’s capital say gunfire has erupted in the same area as embattled President Roch Marc Christian Kabore’s home. The development late Sunday came hours after mutinous soldiers seized control of a military base in the capital, Ouagadougou. Government officials earlier in the day denied that Kabore had been detained by the soldiers but his whereabouts were not immediately known. Several people in the vicinity of the president’s home also told The Associated Press that they could hear helicopters hovering overhead. Anti-government protesters who support the mutineers also set fire to a building belonging to the president’s political party in the latest sign his government is in danger. By Sam Mednick. SENT: 890 words, photos.
ELECTION 2022-REDISTRICTING -- Democrats braced for disaster when state legislatures began redrawing congressional maps, fearing that Republican dominance of statehouses would tilt power away from them for the next decade. But as the redistricting process reaches its final stages, that anxiety is beginning to ease. By Nicholas Riccardi and Bobby Caina Calvan. SENT: 1,320 words, photos.
BRITIAN-ASSANGE — Britain’s High Court is set to rule on whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can take his fight against U.S. extradition to the U.K. Supreme Court. SENT: 470 words, photos.
OBIT-MANFRED THIERRY MUGLER — French fashion designer Manfred Thierry Mugler, whose dramatic designs were worn by celebrities like Madonna, Lady Gaga and Cardi B, has died. He was 73. SENT: 240 words, photos.
MULTIPLE HOMICIDES-MILWAUKEE HOME — Five people have been found dead in a Milwaukee home in what police are investigating as multiple homicides. SENT: 188 words.
AUSTRALIA-MISSING GIRL — A man has pleaded guilty to abducting a 4-year-old girl from her family’s camping tent on Australia’s west coast last year. SENT: 140 words.
CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES-UTILITIES — The nation’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, is poised to emerge from five years of criminal probation amid worries that it remains too dangerous to be trusted. Over the last five years, the utility became an even more destructive force. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.
SCHOOL SHOOTING-MICHIGAN — The Michigan high school where four students were fatally shot is reopening for the first time since the Nov. 30 tragedy. Officials planned to welcome students back to Oxford High School on Monday. SENT: 150 words, photos.
MEXICO JOURNALIST-KILLED — A journalist has been killed in the northern Mexico border city of Tijuana. Lourdes Maldonado López was the second journalist killed in Tijuana in a week’s time and the third in Mexico this month. The Baja California state prosecutor’s office said Maldonado was found shot to death inside a car Sunday. SENT: 210 words.
PERSIAN GULF TENSIONS — The United Arab Emirates has intercepted two ballistic missiles targeting Abu Dhabi. The state-run WAM news agency said missile fragments fell harmlessly over the Emirati capital. Videos posted to social media show the sky light up before dawn, with points of light looking like interceptor missiles. SENT: 650 words, photos.
DUBAI BRUNCH-INTERRUPTED — Friday will never be the same in Dubai. The Middle East’s financial hub has shifted its weekend this year from Friday and Saturday to the Western-style Saturday and Sunday along with the rest of the United Arab Emirates. That has thrown Dubai’s beloved institution of Friday brunch — a favorite custom of expats who revel in hourslong booze-soaked, Instagram-worthy buffets — into disarray. SENT: 970 words, photos.
TAIWAN-CHINA FIGHTS — China has flown 39 warplanes toward Taiwan in its largest such sortie of the new year, continuing a pattern that the island has answered by scrambling its own military jets in response. SENT: 240 words, photos.
AUSTRALIA-WeCHAT — Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has lost control of his Chinese-owned social media platform WeChat account and a lawmaker has accused China’s leaders of political interference. Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on Monday that Morrison’s 76,000 WeChat followers were notified his page had been renamed. SENT: 460 words, photos.
FILM-BOX-OFFICE - Never underestimate your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, even with a mutating virus afoot. Despite rising concerns over the omicron variant, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” not only shattered pandemic-era box office records; it became the third best opening of all time behind “Avengers: Endgame” ($357.1 million) and “Avengers: Infinity War” ($257.7 million). SENT: 950 words, photos.
FINANCIAL MARKETS — Shares are mostly lower in Asia after Wall Street logged its worst week since the pandemic began in 2020. Benchmarks declined in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul and Sydney but rose in Shanghai. U.S. futures were higher. SENT: 600 words, photos.
FBN-RAMS-BUCCANEERS - Matthew Stafford threw for 366 yards and two touchdowns and Matt Gay’s 30-yard field goal as time expired lifted the Los Angeles Rams to a 30-27 divisional playoff victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. SENT: 1,090 words, photos.
FBN-BILLS-CHIEFS - Patrick Mahomes found Travis Kelce in the corner of the end zone early in overtime, and the Kansas City Chiefs rallied to beat the Buffalo Bills 42-36 on Sunday night in a dramatic finish to a wild divisional-round weekend. SENT: 1,050 words, photos.
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