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Russia looks to annex strategically important Kherson region

The Kremlin signalled on Wednesday that it could annex the strategically important southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, as the occupying authorities said they would prepare a formal request to President Vladimir Putin to absorb their region into Russia.

A Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on Wednesday that "the residents of Kherson should decide" whether to join Russia, months after the city of Kherson, with a prewar population of about 290,000, became the first major city to fall to Russian forces after the invasion on Feb 24.

"Such fateful decisions must have absolutely clear legal grounds and standing - be completely legitimate just as it was in the case of Crimea," Peskov said, referring to the region that Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014, just hours after 97 per cent of voters there approved a referendum criticised as fraudulent.

The effort to formally incorporate the region comes as Russian forces have stepped up repressive efforts in Kherson to quash its Ukrainian identity and to bring it firmly into Moscow's sphere of influence amid a flurry of protests by local residents.


Russian diplomats spurned in Europe's capitals

Russian diplomat Sergiy Andreev was feeling unwelcome on the streets of Warsaw even before protesters doused him with red liquid thrown in his face at short range this week.

Soon after Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Feb 24, Andreev, who is Moscow's ambassador in Poland, found the embassy bank accounts had been frozen. Attempts to meet with Polish officials for any level of diplomatic discussion were impossible, he said. His regular barber refused to cut his hair. Insurance companies denied coverage for embassy cars, Andreev said.

Across Europe's capitals, Russian diplomats are getting the cold shoulder, ranging from diplomatic expulsions by governments, to protests by individual citizens, and service denials by companies.


Florida condo collapse victims reach $1.3 billion settlement

Survivors and families of the victims of the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Florida, that killed 98 people last year have reached a US$997 million (S$1.3 billion) settlement to compensate them for their staggering losses of life and property.

The settlement, revealed at a court hearing on Wednesday and still pending final approval, includes insurance companies, developers of an adjacent building and other defendants in the extensive civil case.

It comes six weeks before the anniversary of the tragedy on June 24.


Passenger lands plane in Florida after pilot incapacitated

A passenger without flying experience landed a small plane at a Florida airport after the pilot was rendered "incoherent" by a medical emergency, US media reported on Wednesday.

The unwitting pilot, the only passenger on the single-engine Cessna 208, relied on air traffic control to guide his landing at Palm Beach International Airport, some 68 miles (110km) north of Miami, NBC reported.

Officials at Fort Pierce, north of Palm Beach, received an emergency call around noon on Tuesday from the passenger, saying, "I've got a serious situation here," NBC reported.


'Beyond perfect' De Bruyne takes Man City closer to EPL title

Pep Guardiola described Kevin De Bruyne's form as "beyond perfect" after the Belgian scored four goals in a 5-1 thrashing of Wolves on Wednesday that took Manchester City another step closer to retaining the Premier League.

Pep Guardiola's men move three points clear of Liverpool with two games to play and boosted their goal difference to seven superior to the Reds.

City need just four points from Sunday's trip to West Ham and the visit of Aston Villa on the final day of the season to be crowned champions for the fourth time in five years.


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