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In brief: Russia launches massive war games near Ukraine

Russia launched massive air force exercises in territory along its border with Ukraine on Monday that will include air-to-ground firing practices and missile tests, the Defense Ministry announced in Moscow.

The war games, coinciding with another buildup of Russian troops on the border with eastern Ukraine regions seized by pro-Russia separatists, have heightened tensions and renewed fears that the Kremlin may be poising its forces for an invasion.

Ukrainian troops recaptured a key railway junction near Donetsk on Monday, another gain against the heavily armed separatists who in recent weeks have lost much of the area seized after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in March.

Kurdish forces seek U.S. help in northern Iraq

DOHUK, Iraq – Kurdish military forces scrambled Monday to reinforce their positions in northern Iraq, including an unusual request to the United States for military assistance, one day after militants from the Islamist State routed Kurdish troops from three key towns near northern Iraq’s largest dam.

The Kurdistan Regional Government’s foreign minister, Falah Mustafa, confirmed that he’d asked U.S. officials at the American consulate in Irbil, the KRG capital, for military assistance – a request that under ordinary circumstances would come only from the central government in Baghdad and then only on behalf of the Iraqi army.

But the Iraqi army fled northern Iraq in early June in the face of the Islamic State, and since then only the Kurds’ peshmerga militia has confronted extremist forces in the north.

Mustafa said U.S. officials in Irbil were receptive to the request, which he did not detail.

U.S. officials in Washington declined to comment for publication. Privately, however, several said that such assistance would present challenges to U.S. foreign policy, which provides for military assistance only to governments. However, they said, the United States might be able to provide such assistance covertly through the CIA.

Hurricane Bertha likely to swing wide of coast

MIAMI – Newly formed Hurricane Bertha was churning northward Monday far from land, posing no direct threat to the U.S. East Coast.

The center of the storm is expected to stay offshore as it passes wide of the U.S. mainland over the next few days, and the storm is also likely to miss Bermuda. A forecast map shows that Bertha could brush Canada’s easternmost provinces as a post-tropical storm later this week.

“There’s no direct impact that will be felt on the U.S. East Coast. However, there could be added surf and rip current conditions,” said Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.


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