TIME Guatemala

Guatemala Declares State of Emergency for Drought

Central America is suffering one of its worst droughts in decades

(GUATEMALA CITY) — The Guatemalan government has declared a state of emergency in 16 of the country’s 22 provinces because of a drought that has caused major agricultural losses in Central America.

Agriculture Minister Elmer Lopez said Monday that as of last week more than 236,000 families had been affected mainly in western and central Guatemala.

The state of emergency declaration has to be approved by lawmakers so the government can provide funds to those who have lost their crops, and to stabilize food prices.

Central America is suffering one of its worst droughts in decades, and experts say major farm losses and the deaths of hundreds of cattle in the region could leave hundreds of thousands of families without food.

The losses are largely in the region’s staples of corn and beans.

TIME Iraq

Car Bombing Kills at Least 11 People in Baghdad

No one has claimed responsibility for the latest attacks, which bore the hallmarks of al-Qaeda-inspired militants

(BAGHDAD) — A parked car bomb exploded on Tuesday in a busy Shiite area in eastern Baghdad, killingat least 11 people, officials said, the latest in a series of attacks to shake the Iraqi capital as the Shiite-led government struggles to dislodge Sunni militants from areas in the country’s west and north.

The explosives-laden car went off during the morning rush hour in the main commercial area of the NewBaghdad district It was parked close to outdoor pet and vegetable markets and a traffic police office, a police officer said.

The attack killed at least 11 and wounded 31, he added. A medical official confirmed the casualty figures. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media.

The bombing came a day after a wave of attacks targeted Shiite areas in several cities, including Baghdad, killing at least 58 people. Among them were 15 worshippers who died in a suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque in the same New Baghdad neighborhood where Tuesday’s car bomb struck.

No one has claimed responsibility for the latest attacks, which bore the hallmarks of al-Qaeda-inspired militants.

Iraq has faced a growing Sunni insurgency since early this year as the Islamic State, an al-Qaeda-breakaway group, and allied militants have taken over areas in the country’s west and north. The crisis is Iraq’s worst crisis since the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops.

The Islamic State has captured large swaths of territory in western and northern Iraq in a lightning offensive earlier this year.

The blitz stunned Iraqi security forces and the military, which melted away and withdrew as the Islamic State in June overran the northern cities of Mosul and Tikrit, as well as small towns and villages on their path.

Since then, tens of thousands of Iraqis, including members of Christian and other minorities, have been forced from their homes and displaced, while the Islamic State has carved out a self-styled caliphate in the large area straddling the Iraqi-Syrian border that it now controls.

Associated Press writer Murtada Faraj contributed to this report

TIME Infectious Disease

Ebola’s Untold Tragedy: Foreign Families Are Fleeing

The exodus of industry and families from West Africa could have severe implications

Health care is dire in Ebola-affected countries in West Africa. But one of the lesser recognized tragedies is the fact that international families—families of diplomats, missionaries or business people—have fled the country either by choice or at strong recommendation from their homeland. If they don’t return, some fear that their exodus could cripple the countries’ growing economies.

“The health situation in terms of direct risk of infection [for the average person] is really not that bad, but its effects are immense,” says Jeff Trudeau, the director of The American International School of Monrovia (AISM), which has lost well over half of its expected students for the start of the 2014 school year, and has delayed its start date to October. Right now, he’s only 50% confident they will open then.

In Liberia, the government closed public schools. Private schools are subject to fewer regulations and some remain open. However, even if AISM wanted to open on time, it simply no longer has students to fill its chairs. AISM and similar international schools in West Africa cater to kids who come from countries with specific educational standards, typically children of missionary families, diplomats, and international businesses. Last year, 16 embassies were represented at the international school in Liberia.

Closed schools are a serious problem for children’s education, but closures in countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone have implications even beyond lost learning opportunities. Trudeau says the country of Liberia, where he lives, has greatly improved in terms of economy and industry in the last few years. Two years ago, AISM only had 70 students, but as the school season neared this August, AISM was expecting to welcome 150. Trudeau says his school has also lost 20% of its teachers.

“Liberia entered a period of prosperity, and we grew last year,” says Trudeau. It’s reflective of how things improved security-wise and economically. Parents felt comfortable bringing their kids to Liberia.”

Trudeau says that if the school can’t open in October, and doesn’t open until, say, January, they will probably have fewer than 50 students. The other students will, by that time, likely have enrolled in other schools in their home countries or elsewhere.

Similar U.S. Embassy-funded schools in Sierra Leone and Guinea are also struggling. The American international school in Sierra Leone remains closed, and though the school in Guinea is open, it has only 50 students—a 50% reduction in their expected class.

In the wake of the outbreak, kids are left without parents and people are dying of otherwise preventable diseases due to lack of medical attention, Doctors Without Borders has written in TIME. So far, Ebola has infected 2,615, killing 1,427. But the aftermath won’t simply be a clean-up, but also a catch-up—to gain back the momentum they made in the last few years.

“There are three things a country needs to be successful: security, health care, and education,” says Trudeau. “Education is our direct responsibility. If we can attract top-quality people to return to Liberia, we can help them rebuild and restore. Unfortunately, without health care, you can see how quickly this is lost. No matter how well you’ve done in security and education, without health care, it doesn’t work.”

TIME Australia

An Australian MP Says Sorry for Calling Chinese Officials ‘Mongrels’ and ‘Bastards’

House Of Representatives Question Time
Leader of the Palmer United Party Clive Palmer during Question Time at Parliament House on July 15, 2014 in Canberra, Australia. Stefan Postles—Getty Images

And says he looks forward to "greater peace and understanding in the future"

Australian legislator and mining tycoon Clive Palmer has “most sincerely” apologized for a blistering attack on the Chinese government, reports the BBC.

During a live debate shown last week by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the 60-year-old billionaire — whose own Palmer United Party holds the balance of power in Australia’s Senate — slammed Chinese officials as “bastards” and “mongrels” who “shoot their own people.”

“They’re communist, they shoot their own people, they haven’t got a justice system and they want to take over this country,” he said at the time. “The Chinese government wants to bring workers here to destroy our wage system … they want to take over our ports and get our resources for free … I don’t mind standing up against the Chinese bastards and stopping them from doing it.”

China is Australia’s top trading partner, and Palmer’s tirade prompted a fierce backlash in a state-linked Chinese newspaper, the Global Times.

His remarks were also criticized by other Australian politicians. “Mr. Palmer’s comments are offensive, they are unnecessary, and it’s unacceptable for a Member of Parliament to make such comments, particularly on a national television program,” said Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on the radio.

In a letter to the Chinese ambassador revealed Tuesday, Palmer said, “I regret any hurt or anguish such comments may have caused any party and I look forward to greater peace and understanding in the future.”

TIME Ukraine

Rice Slams Moscow’s Intervention in Ukraine as ‘Dangerous and Inflammatory’

Susan Rice
National Security Adviser Susan Rice listens to reporters questions during a briefing on March 21, 2014 Manuel Balce Ceneta —AP

The National Security Adviser's condemnation comes ahead of a meeting between Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin

U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice has berated Russia for continuing to pump heavy weaponry and military personnel into Ukraine’s eastern provinces, where a pro-Moscow insurgency has been taking place since April.

“Repeated Russian incursions into Ukraine unacceptable. Dangerous and inflammatory,” said Rice on her Twitter account. “Russia has no right to send vehicles or cargo into Ukraine without Govt of Ukraine’s permission,” she said in a separate tweet.

She added that the Kremlin’s incursions into Ukraine represented a “significant escalation” of the crisis.

Rice’s strong words came hours ahead of a scheduled round of talks between Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Belarus on Tuesday. They also followed confirmation from NATO commanders last week that artillery units, manned by Russian troops, were operating both outside and within Ukraine and were bombarding Ukrainian forces.

Relations between Kiev and Moscow have been in a precipitous downward spiral since the ousting of Kremlin-backed President Viktor Yanukovych by mass demonstrations earlier this year. That was followed in March by the Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula — a move that inspired a pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine the following month.

Under the leadership of Poroshenko, Ukraine has incrementally beaten back the insurgency, despite the aid that the rebels are receiving.

“What we’ve seen in recent weeks is a steady advance by the Ukrainian forces and Russia trying to pull various expedients out of the hat to help their proxies over the border,” John Besemeres, professor and adjunct fellow at Australian National University’s Center for European Studies, tells TIME. “So far, at least, it doesn’t appear that any of these are working.”

On Monday, Kiev claimed to have captured a number of Russian paratroopers inside its borders.

The news came as President Poroshenko dissolved the country’s parliament and called for a new round of elections in October.

“Many deputies who are in the [Parliament] are direct sponsors or accomplices, that is to say allies of the militant separatists,” said Poroshenko, according to the Associated Press.

Approximately 2,249 people have been killed and more than 6,000 injured in Ukraine since hostilities erupted, according to an assessment by the U.N.

Despite the heavy losses, which include more than 700 Ukrainian servicemen, Poroshenko appears to be committed to eradicating the insurgents.

“We will manage to defend the independence, life and security of everyone, our right to live freely on our Ukrainian land at the cost of colossal efforts of the entire nation,” the President told the country during a national address on Aug. 24, the country’s Independence Day.

TIME Physics

Supersonic Submarines Just Took One Step Closer to Reality

That would make San Francisco to Shanghai in two hours a possibility

Chinese scientists say there could one day be a high-tech submarine that crosses the Pacific Ocean in less time than it takes to watch a movie, the South China Morning Post reports.

Researchers at the Harbin Institute of Technology, in northeast China, have made dramatic improvements to a Soviet-era military technology called supercavitation that allows submersibles to travel at high speeds, the Post says.

Supercavitation envelops a submerged vessel inside an air bubble to minimize friction. It enabled the Russian Shakval torpedo to reach speeds of 230 m.p.h. — but theoretically, a supercavitated vessel, given sufficient power at launch, could reach the speed of sound (some 3,603 m.p.h.). That would mean crossing the 6,000-odd miles from San Francisco to Shanghai in just two hours.

One of the problems of supercavitation has been how to steer a vessel at such speeds. The Harbin scientists say they could have the answer.

According to the Post, they’ve developed a way of allowing a supercavitated vessel to shower itself with liquid while traveling inside its own air bubble. The liquid creates a membrane on the surface of the vessel, and by manipulating this membrane, the degree of friction applied to different areas of the vessel could be controlled, which would enable steering.

“We are very excited by its potential,” said Li Fengchen, professor of fluid machinery and engineering at the Harbin Institute’s complex flow and heat transfer lab. “By combining liquid-membrane technology with supercavitation, we can significantly reduce the launch challenges and make cruising control easier,” he told the Post.

Li stressed, however, that many technical problems needed to be solved before supersonic submarine travel could take place.

[SCMP]

TIME Autos

Volvo Is Banking on This Car to Crack the Top End of the World’s Biggest Auto Market

Front detail of Volvo's new XC90 Volvo Car Group

But will affluent Chinese consumers like the XC90?

Volvo unveils its first car under Chinese ownership on Tuesday. It’s a high-stakes moment for the Swedish carmaker —and a time of reckoning for the Chinese auto industry’s global ambitions.

“If Volvo is successful, it will have a great significance on Chinese automakers,” Bin Zhu, China forecast-team manager at consultancy LMC Automotive, tells TIME. “It could boost their confidence and set an example for the whole industry.”

More cars are being produced and sold in China than anywhere else in the world, yet the country’s domestic brands have failed to have international impact. In fact, they’re even struggling at home. More Chinese drive a Ford, Volkswagen or Nissan than a Chery, Dongfeng or Great Wall. And as buyers become more affluent, domestic marques are shunned even more.

Consultancy firm McKinsey forecasts that China’s premium car market will be the largest in the world by 2020. However, consumers they talk to doubt that any local carmaker will have come up with a model prestigious enough for them by then. Currently, the three top brands — Audi, BMW and Mercedes — dominate 75% of the premium sector and keep growing at the expense of local rivals. The new Volvo XC90 could buck that trend.

“It’s a car that hits right in the heart of the market,” James Chao, director of the IHS consultancy’s automotive unit, tells TIME. “It’s a little larger SUV, premium but not fully luxury. It’s retained a lot of Volvo’s European flair, while many people surely would feel proud to drive a Chinese vehicle of this caliber. If it’s priced competitively and realistically, it could be a hit.”

Success isn’t guaranteed. There was widespread skepticism when Geely first purchased Volvo in 2010. Other acquisitions, such as state-owned SAIC’s deal with Korean Ssangyong or SAIC’s subsidiary Nanjing Auto’s purchase of MG Rover, failed to bring the sought-for synergies.

“Sometimes the Chinese companies have taken a lot of time to absorb the knowledge, or the knowledge has been out of date,” says Bin. But, he adds, Volvo and Geely could be different. “Volvo needed a lot of investment to develop new technology, while Geely had money but no strong development team. It was a win-win situation.”

The partnership got off to a shaky start. Managers from the two companies publicly contradicted each other on how Scandinavian the new cars would be, and the sometimes brash Chinese tastes collided with the sober aesthetic of safety-minded carmakers from Torslanda. However, communication slowly improved and the two sides seem to have found some equal ground. In an interview with the Financial Times, Volvo’s head of design Thomas Ingenlath said that Geely’s owner Li Shufu had “opened our eyes” to the importance of a backseat experience that included a champagne cooler and a humidor. Li, for his part, expressed his admiration for Volvo’s values, and said that he thinks they may stand for something the Chinese are craving right now.

“Particularly in China, I think a lot of people start to realize: O.K., what are the things that they truly should value,” Li told the Financial Times. “That’s something that fits perfectly well with what Volvo is offering.”

There’s no arguing about the importance of the new XC90 to both firms: it’s the first to be rid of Ford technology (the American automaker sold Volvo to Geely in 2010) and the product of an $11 billion development process that will lead to a completely renewed Volvo fleet by 2020. If the XC90 doesn’t become successful, Li told the Wall Street Journal, “it will be very painful.”

The partnership does have one competitive advantage. Since Geely owns Volvo, it doesn’t have to live by the restrictions for joint ventures and can be more aggressive when it comes to research, development and manufacturing facilities inside China.

“We’ll absolutely see more cross-pollination in the coming five years,” says Chao at IHS, who says the Volvo name should give Geely a boost. “[Chinese automaker] Hongqi sold about as many cars last year as Audi does on an average day,” he says. “Maybe the best idea isn’t to introduce your own branded car in China at this point.”

LMC’s Bin agrees. “I think we’ll see more localization and cars tailor-made for China,” he says. In the long term, he says there could be “an opportunity to challenge the German automakers.”

Whatever the outcome, there is no denying the crucial importance of the XC90’s launch for Volvo.

“It’s the biggest proof of what we’re all about,” Alain Visser, Volvo’s head of sales and marketing, tells TIME. “If this doesn’t work out, we have an issue.”

TIME Syria

AP Sources: U.S. Surveillance Planes Fly Over Syria

One official said the Obama Administration has a need for reliable intelligence from Syria

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — The U.S. has begun surveillance flights over Syria after President Barack Obama gave the OK, U.S. officials said, a move that could pave the way for airstrikes against Islamic State militant targets there.

While the White House says Obama has not approved military action inside Syria, additional intelligence on the militants would likely be necessary before he could take that step. Pentagon officials have been drafting potential options for the president, including airstrikes.

One official said the administration has a need for reliable intelligence from Syria and called the surveillance flights an important avenue for obtaining data.

Two U.S. officials said Monday that Obama had approved the flights, while another U.S. official said early Tuesday that they had begun. The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter by name, and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday that the U.S. wants more clarity on the militants in Syria, but declined to comment on the surveillance flights.

“Clearly the picture we have of ISIS on the Iraqi side is a more refined picture,” said Dempsey, using one of the acronyms for the Islamic State group. “The existence and activities of ISIS on the Syrian side, we have … some insights into that but we certainly want to have more insights into that as we craft a way forward.”

The U.S. began launching strikes against the Islamic State inside Iraq earlier this month, with Obama citing the threat to American personnel in the country and a humanitarian crisis in the north as his rationale. Top Pentagon officials have said the only way the threat from the militants can be fully eliminated is to go after the group inside neighboring Syria as well.

Obama has long resisted taking military action in Syria, a step that would plunge the U.S. into a country ravaged by an intractable civil war. However, the president’s calculus appears to have shifted since the Islamic State announced last week that it had murdered American journalist James Foley, who was held hostage in Syria. The group is also threatening to kill other U.S. citizens being held by the extremists in Syria.

Dempsey, who was in Kabul for the U.S. military’s change of command ceremony, has said he would recommend the military move against the Islamic State militants if there is a threat to the homeland. He didn’t rule out strikes for any other critical reasons, but listed the homeland threat as one key trigger.

Dempsey also said the U.S. has been meeting with allies in the region to help develop a better understanding of the Islamic State group’s threat. He said he believes those talks are now beginning to “set the conditions for some kind of coalition to form.”

He said they are “trying to better understand the threat that ISIS poses, not just in Iraq and Syria but regionally.” Dempsey has said he believes key allies in the region — including Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia — will join the U.S. in quashing the Islamic State group.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday that Obama has demonstrated his willingness to order military action when necessary to protect American citizens.

“That is true without regard to international boundaries,” he said.

The White House would not comment on Obama’s decision to authorize surveillance flights over Syria.

“We’re not going to comment on intelligence or operational issues, but as we’ve been saying, we’ll use all the tools at our disposal,” said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council.

The U.S. had already stepped up its air surveillance of the Islamic State inside Iraq earlier this year as Obama began considering the prospect of airstrikes there. And the administration has run some surveillance missions over Syria, including ahead of an attempted mission to rescue Foley and other U.S. hostages earlier this summer.

The U.S. special forces who were sent into Syria to carry out the rescue mission did not find the hostages at the location where the military thought they were being held. Officials who confirmed the failed rescue last week said the U.S. was continuing to seek out intelligence on the other hostages’ whereabouts.

Administration officials have said a concern for Obama in seeking to take out the Islamic State inside Syria is the prospect that such a move could unintentionally help embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad. A top Syrian official said Monday any U.S. airstrikes without consent from Syria would be considered an aggression.

The Islamic State is among the groups seeking Assad’s ouster, along with rebel forces aided by the U.S.

The White House on Monday tried to tamp down the notion that action against the Islamic State could bolster Assad, with Earnest saying, “We’re not interested in trying to help the Assad regime.” However, he acknowledged that “there are a lot of cross pressures here.”

___

Pace reported from Washington.

TIME Infectious Disease

Liberia: Doctor Given Experimental Ebola Drug Dies

WEST AFRICA EBOLA
Graphic provides an update on the spread of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa AP

The experimental drug known as ZMapp has been tried in only six people

(MONROVIA, Liberia) — A Liberian doctor who received one of the last known doses of an experimental Ebola drug has died, officials said Monday. Separately, Canada said it has yet to send out an untested vaccine that the government is donating.

Ebola has left more than 1,400 people dead across West Africa, underscoring the urgency for developing potential ways to stop and treat the disease. However, health experts warn these drugs and vaccines have not undergone the rigorous testing that usually takes place before they are used.

The experimental vaccines are at still at a Canadian laboratory, said Patrick Gaebel, spokesman for the Public Health Agency of Canada, who declined to speculate how many weeks it could be before those are given to volunteers.

“We are now working with the (World Health Organization) to address complex regulatory, logistical and ethical issues so that the vaccine can be safely and ethically deployed as rapidly as possible,” Gaebel said.

Earlier this month, Canada said it would donate 800 to 1,000 doses of an Ebola vaccine that it developed. Likely candidates include health care workers treating Ebola patients.

The experimental drug known as ZMapp has been tried in only six people. Health experts caution that since ZMapp was never tested in humans, it is unclear whether it works. The small supply is now said to be exhausted and it is expected to be months before more can be produced.

Dr. Abraham Borbor, the deputy chief medical doctor at Liberia’s largest hospital, had received ZMapp, along with two other Liberians. He “was showing signs of improvement but yesterday he took a turn for the worse,” and died Sunday, Information Minister Lewis Brown told The Associated Press.

There was no update provided Monday on the other two Liberians who received the drug.

Earlier, it had been given to two Americans aid workers and a Spanish missionary priest, who died after he left Liberia. After receiving rigorous medical care in the U.S., the Americans survived the virus that has killed about half of its victims.

Ebola can cause a grisly death with bleeding from the eyes, mouth and ears. The virus can only be transmitted through direct contact with the bodily fluids of the sick or from touching victims’ bodies, leaving doctors and other health care workers most vulnerable to contracting it.

International relief efforts have included shipments of gloves, gowns, face masks and other protective equipment, although it’s not clear how many have reached health workers struggling to contain the epidemic in West Africa, where even such basics as sterile fluids can be in short supply.

But just getting enough gear isn’t the whole story: Health workers can infect themselves while taking off contaminated equipment if they don’t do it properly, a trio of infectious disease experts wrote Monday in Annals of Internal Medicine.

“The physical exhaustion and emotional fatigue that come with caring for patients infected with Ebolamay further increase the chance of an inadvertent exposure to bodily fluids on the outside of the” personal protective equipment, wrote Dr. William A. Fisher II of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, along with Drs. Trish Perl and Noreen Hynes of Johns Hopkins University.

“In addition, the impulse to wipe away sweat in the ever-present hot, humid environment” after taking off some gear, and before washing up, could be enough, they added.

Meanwhile, the family of 29-year-old William Pooley, the first British citizen confirmed to be infected withEbola, said he is receiving excellent care at an isolation ward in London’s Royal Free Hospital after being evacuated from the capital of Sierra Leone.

“We could not ask for him to be in a better place,” they said in a statement.

Pooley, a volunteer nurse, was flown back to Britain from Sierra Leone where he was working at an Ebolatreatment center.

The WHO is also in the process of trying to evacuate a Senegalese doctor who contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone, said WHO Assistant Director General, Dr. Keiji Fukada on Monday.

The U.N. on Monday also spoke out against the limitations placed on flights into and out of the affected countries, saying they are slowing aid organizations’ work in sending personnel and equipment and contributing to the countries’ “economic and diplomatic isolation.”

“We shouldn’t do anything that stokes fear and stigmatization,” Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, told reporters.

On Monday, Japan also said it is ready to provide a newly developed anti-influenza drug as a possible treatment Ebola. The drug, with the brand name Avigan, was developed by Fujifilm subsidiary Toyama Chemical Co. to treat new and re-emerging influenza viruses, and has not been proven to be effective against Ebola.

Gillies reported from Toronto. Associated Press writers Lauran Neergaard in Washington, Cara Anna at the United Nations, Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, and Clarence Roy-Macaulay in Freetown, Sierra Leone contributed to this report

TIME Ukraine

Ukrainian President Dissolves Parliament

Petro Poroshenko Press Conference
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko Dan Kitwood—Getty Images

(KIEV, Ukraine) — Ukraine’s president on Monday dissolved parliament and called for early elections in October as his country continues to battle a pro-Russian insurgency in its eastern regions.

President Petro Poroshenko announced in a statement posted on his website that he has dissolved parliament and called for snap elections on October 26.

He said the move was in coherence with the Ukrainian constitution, noting that the ruling coalition collapsed several weeks ago.

“Many deputies who are in the Rada (parliament) are direct sponsors or accomplices, that is to say allies of the militant separatists,” Poroshenko said.

The announcement came a day ahead of a summit that includes both Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and could be aimed at pressuring Ukraine into seeking a negotiated end to the conflict rather than a military victory.

Over the past month, Ukrainian forces have made substantial inroads against pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine, taking control of several sizeable towns and cities that had been under rebel control since April, when the clashes began.

But the advances have come at a high cost — more than 2,000 civilians reportedly killed and at least 726 Ukrainian servicemen. There is no independent figure for the number of rebel dead, although Ukrainian authorities said Monday that 250 rebels were in fighting around Olenivka, a town 25 kilometers (15 miles) south of Donetsk.

Earlier Monday, a Ukrainian official said a column of Russian tanks and armored vehicles entered southeastern Ukraine — a move that brings the conflict to an area that has so far escaped the intense fighting of recent weeks.

Col. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security Council, told reporters that the column of 10 tanks, two armored vehicles and two trucks crossed the border near the village of Shcherbak and that shells were fired from Russia toward the nearby city of Novoazovsk. He said they were Russian military vehicles bearing the flags of the separatist Donetsk rebels. The village is in the Donetsk region, but not under the control of the rebels.

The Ukrainian National Guard later said two of the tanks had been destroyed.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday he had no information about the column.

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