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DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — The Syrian government freed only 25 prisoners — and not the 150 reported by foreign mediators — in exchange for 13 Greek Orthodox nuns who had been held by al-Qaida-linked rebels, the country's information minister said Tuesday.
Simferopol (Ukraine) (AFP) - Pro-Moscow lawmakers in Crimea voted for independence from Ukraine on Tuesday in a precursor to a referendum this weekend for the region to become part of Russia. The local assembly approved a "declaration on the independence of the autonomous republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol" with 78 out of 81 lawmakers present voting in favour. The move by the parliament, which has been declared illegal by the new government in Kiev, appeared to be aimed at creating a legal framework for joining Russia as a sovereign state. The parliament's press service said in a statement that independence would come into force after the referendum if the result is in favour of Crimea becoming part of the Russian Federation.