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Separatists vote for leader in war-torn eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists will vote to set up a breakaway regional leadership in the eastern Ukraine region of Donetsk and Luhansk aiming to take their war-torn region closer to Russia and defying Kiev and the West as the big guns still boom across the territory.

A woman leaves a voting booth during the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic leadership Credit: Reuters

RAF Typhoons 'escort' Russian bomber through UK airspace

A Russian Bear aircraft photographed from an intercepting RAF quick reaction Typhoon as it approached UK airspace. Credit: Sgt Fenwick/RAF/MoD Crown Copy/PA

RAF Typhoons intercepted a Russian Bear bomber as it approached UK airspace yesterday, the second flypast by aircraft from Vladimir Putin's air force in three days, the Ministry of Defence said.

The Soviet-era Tupolev Tu-95 aircraft, flying in international airspace was met by the fighters from RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland and "escorted ... through the UK flight information region", an Mod spokeswoman said.

A Russian Bear aircraft photographed from an intercepting RAF quick reaction Typhoon as it approached UK airspace. Credit: Sgt Fenwick/RAF/MoD Crown Copy/PA

The intervention follows a similar incident on Wednesday when two Bear bombers were tracked over the North Sea as Nato radars picked up a series of Russian formations engaged in "significant military manoeuvres" ranging from the Black Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.

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Blatter to keep Russia and Ukraine apart at World Cup

Blatter will not allow Russia to play Ukraine in the 2018 World Cup group stages. Credit: PA

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has confirmed that Russia and Ukraine will be kept apart in the 2018 World Cup group stages should the Ukrainians qualify for the tournament.

Political tension between the neighbouring states continues to be high with Kiev accusing Moscow of backing Russian separatists in the east of Ukraine.

Blatter replied "you can be sure about this" when asked whether hosts Russia would be kept apart from Ukraine following a politically driven outbreak of violence during a recent match between Serbia and Albania.

Despite accepting the two nations should kept apart, Blatter has refused to support claims the tournament should not be played in Russia if the political climate is still volatile in 2018.

“A boycott never achieves anything and does not have a positive effect. FIFA is fully supporting the World Cup in Russia,” he said.

War-weary Ukrainians head to polls

Ukrainians vote in an election that is likely to install a pro-Western parliament and strengthen President Petro Poroshenko's mandate to end separatist conflict in the east, but could fuel tension with Russia.

People vote in the election. Credit: Reuters

People wrapped up warmly on a cold, clear day to vote in the first parliamentary poll since protests in the capital Kiev last winter forced Moscow-backed leader Viktor Yanukovich to flee and ushered in a pro-Europe leadership under Poroshenko.

Ukrainian servicemen hold their ballots during a parliamentary election. Credit: Reuters

In eastern regions controlled by the army, soldiers armed with automatic rifles and wearing bulletproof jackets guarded polling stations under the yellow and blue Ukrainian flag.

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko walks out of a voting booth. Credit: Reuters

Artists decorate cakes to look like world leaders

Artists in Russia have baked three cakes made to look startlingly like three world leaders, before eating them.

Cakes decorated to look like US President Barack Obama, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and German Chancellor Angela Merkel Credit: REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin

The performance was entitled 'Sweet Sanctions. Let's eat each other only for fun' and took place at Krasnoyarsk Museum Centre in Siberia.

Russian artist Yelena Zelenskaya puts the finishing touches to an President Obama cake Credit: REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin

The world leaders were chose to represent three human races and continents and the performance was held to oppose war, racism, and confrontation of cultures.

Artists hold a tea party at the Krasnoyarsk Museum Centre in Siberia Credit: REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin

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Sweden steps up hunt for 'foreign underwater activity'

Crew members onboard a Swedish Navy fast-attack craft stand guard at the Stockholm archipelago. Credit: Reuters

Sweden has boosted its military presence in the Stockholm archipelago to search for "foreign underwater activity" in the county's largest mobilisation of troops and ships since the end of the Cold War.

The search in the Baltic Sea less than 31 miles (50 km) from Stockholm began on Friday and this operation comes amid increasing tension with Russia among the Nordic and Baltic states over the Ukraine crisis.

Finland last week accused the Russian navy of interfering with a Finnish environmental research vessel in international waters.

Swedish military spokesmen said the information about suspicious activity came from a trustworthy source and that more than 200 military personnel were involved in the search.

Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, citing unidentified sources with knowledge of the search, said the military operation began after a radio transmission in Russian on an emergency frequency was intercepted.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev 'in hospital'

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Credit: Reuters

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is in hospital "determined to fight for his life", Russian state media sources are reporting.

He is cited as telling Interfax news agency that his health was deteriorating, but that he was "determined to fight for his life".

My state of health has been moderate for a week and today I am in hospital. My health is deteriorating.

I'm hooked up to a monitor.

You know my character. I am determined to fight for my life.

– Mikhail Gorbachev, cited by RIA Novostri

Moscow celebrates Vladimir Putin's 62nd birthday

People in the Russian capital of Moscow have been seen celebrating president Vladimir Putin's 62nd birthday today.

A huge banner hung from a bridge in the city showing US president Barack Obama wearing a T-shirt wishing happy birthday to 'global daddy' Putin.

A huge banner depicting US president Barack Obama wearing a Putin T-shirt hangs on a bridge in Moscow. Credit: Reuters

Shops in the capital sold T-shirts and sweatshirts emblazoned with their leader's face.

A shop assistant in Moscow shows off his Putin sweatshirts. Credit: Reuters
A Moscow shop sells sweatshirts printed with a sunglasses-wearing Putin. Credit: Reuters

But demonstrators in Poland chose today to protest against Putin's rule outside the Russian embassy in Warsaw.

Demonstrators in Poland hold anti-Putin posters in Warsaw on the Russian president's 62nd birthday. Credit: Reuters
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