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President Vladimir Putin made a surprise stop in Nicaragua after visiting Russia's Cold War ally Cuba, part of a tour to increase Moscow's influence in Latin America amid frayed ties with the West. Putin's six-day trip will also take him to Argentina and Brazil, where he will take part in a summit of the BRICS group of emerging countries -- an agenda that neatly aligns with his push for a multipolar world at a time when the Ukraine crisis has brought Moscow-Washington relations to a post-Cold War low.
Panicked refugees flooded highways and packed trains heading out of the main remaining rebel strongholds in eastern Ukraine on Saturday fearing an attack by government forces who lost 30 servicemen to defiant militants. Ukraine's new Western-backed leader vowed to step up the push east and take revenge on the militias responsible, which could shatter all hopes of a truce. "The rebels will pay for the life of every one of our servicemen with tens and hundreds of their own," President Petro Poroshenko told an emergency security meeting. The militant talk convinced many in the million-strong eastern industrial hub of Donetsk -- where gunmen who have been abandoning surrounding cities since last weekend have been retreating -- that their city was about to be bombed.