Upper house eases citizenship norms for Russian speakers

Moscow : The upper house of parliament Wednesday approved a law
making it easier for Russian-speakers to obtain citizenship.

"If these people or their ascendants live permanently or lived earlier in Russia or on a territory belonging to the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union, within Russian state borders," they can obtain Russian citizenship after giving up their previous citizenship, the law says.

The main criterion to get citizenship will be knowledge of Russian and its use in daily life.


Ukraine on verge of civil war: Putin

Moscow : The escalation of conflict in Ukraine has brought the country to the verge of civil war, Kremlin said in a statement Wednesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin during a telephonic conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel late Tuesday night warned of the possibility of civil war, the Kremlin press service said Wednesday.

The two leaders "exchanged opinions about the anti-constitutional course of the incumbent Kiev authorities towards the suppression by force of popular protests in southeastern Ukraine," the Kremlin statement said.


New York Police ends spying on Muslims

Washington : New York Police Department has disbanded a controversial surveillance unit started after the September 11, 2001, attacks to catalogue information on Muslim businesses and mosques across the New York region.

Developed with the CIA's help after 9/11, the so-called Demographics Unit-or Zone Assessment Unit-has been the target of controversy and civil lawsuits.


Two dead, 293 missing as ship sinks off South Korea

Seoul : A passenger ship with 459 people aboard, mostly high school students, sank in waters off South Korea's southwest coast Wednesday, leaving at least two people dead and 293 others missing, a official said.

Lee Kyung-ok, vice minister of Security and public administration, said two people have been found dead, and 164 people were rescued, but 293 others were confirmed missing, Xinhua reported.

A 22-year-old female crew member and a male high school student have been found dead.


Five killed in Canada house party stabbing

Toronto : Five people were killed in a stabbing rampage during a house party in the southwest Canadian city of Calgary early Tuesday. One suspect has been arrested, police said.

Police received reports of a stabbing soon after midnight at a house in a quiet suburban neighbourhood where police officers found three people dead, Xinhua quoted police as saying.

Two more died of their injuries while being rushed to the hospital, the police said, adding that the victims included four men and a woman, reportedly all in their late teens or early 20s.


Ukraine crisis amplifies need for defense cooperation: NATO

Brussels : NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen Tuesday said that the Ukraine crisis has amplified the need to strengthen cooperation between NATO, the European Union and other partners.

"We need to train and exercise more together -- for instance, the NATO Response Force and the EU Battle groups -- so that we stand ready for whatever the future may bring," Xinhua quoted Rasmussen as saying while arriving for the EU defence ministers talks in Luxembourg.


Over 100 teenage girls abducted in Nigeria

Abuja : More than 100 teenage girls were abducted Monday in northeastern Nigeria by suspected Boko Haram members, local sources and police said.

The victims were taken from the Girls College in Northern Borno state's Chibok Town, Xinhua quoted Lawan Tanko, local police chief as saying.

Law enforcement agents are investigating the abduction and strategies are being mapped out to rescue the teenagers, he said without giving further detail.

China covers 646,000 sq km for missing plane

Beijing : Chinese vessels have covered 646,000 sq km in the Indian Ocean in search of the missing Malaysian flight -- MH370, the China Maritime Search and Rescue Center said.

Search efforts were about 18,000 sq km more than the previous day, Xinhua qutoed the centre as saying Tuesday. The centre has also mobilised 65 merchant ships for assistance, which have covered 176,000 sq km.

No objects related to MH370 have been found, it said.


Sri Lanka accuses Canada of misusing voluntary funds

Colombo : The Sri Lankan government Tuesday accused the Canadian government of using its voluntary funds to the Commonwealth Secretariat as a political tool based on the dictates of electoral compulsions.

Canada earlier announced that it had decided to suspend its voluntary contribution to the Commonwealth Secretariat and reallocate the funds for the next two years in protest over Sri Lanka's human rights issue, Xinhua reported.


Ukraine declares Crimea 'temporarily occupied territory'

Kiev : The Ukrainian parliament Tuesday passed a bill declaring the southern Crimea peninsula as "territory temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation", the parliament's press service said.

The new law, which establishes a special legal regime in Crimea, garnerred 228 votes in the 450-seat assembly, Xinhua reported.

The legislation said Crimea, the city of Sevastopol, and airspace and territorial waters surrounding them are considered as an integral part of Ukraine.