Kharkiv (Ukraine) (AFP) - Ukraine braced on Saturday for a breakaway vote in Crimea as deadly violence flared again in the ex-Soviet country's tinderbox east amid the biggest East-West showdown since the Cold War. The second successive day of deadly unrest that has now claimed three lives in the mainly Russian-speaking east of the country came hours after Moscow, whose forces have seized control of Crimea, warned that it reserved the right to "protect" compatriots in the whole of Ukraine. US Secretary of State John Kerry had on Friday failed to either avert Sunday's Crimea ballot or win Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's assurance that Moscow may delay annexing the Black Sea region that Ukraine only received as a "gift" from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1954.
Malian masons on Friday began rebuilding mausoleums in the historic city of Timbuktu destroyed by Islamists during their occupation of the country's north, the United Nations said. The earthen tombs of saints, located in the UNESCO listed desert city, were destroyed in July 2012 by militants who considered the local Sufi version of Islam to be idolatrous. "The rehabilitation of Timbuktu's cultural heritage is critical for the Malian population, for the inhabitants of the city and for the entire world," said UNESCO head Irina Bokova. Located on an old Saharan trading route that saw salt from the Arab north exchanged for gold and slaves from black Africa to the south, Timbuktu blossomed in the 16th century as an Islamic seat of learning, home to priests, scribes and jurists.
Lewis Hamilton snatched pole position from home favourite Daniel Ricciardo in the dying seconds of a thrilling Australian Grand Prix qualifying session Saturday, as world champion Sebastian Vettel failed to make the top 10. Australia's Ricciardo, embarking on his first race with Red Bull, stormed to the top of the field on his last run, before he was trumped by Mercedes' Hamilton in a flying final lap in treacherous wet conditions. The 2008 world champion's German team-mate, Nico Rosberg, placed third, with McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen fourth and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso fifth in the season's first qualifying session.