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U.S. officials are testing a new wildfire retardant after two decades of buying millions of gallons annually from one supplier, but watchdogs say the expensive strategy is overly fixated on aerial attacks at the expense of hiring more fire-line digging ground crews. The Forest Service says tests started last summer are continuing this summer with a magnesium-chloride-based retardant from Fortress. Fortress contends its retardants are effective and better for the environment than products offered by Perimeter Solutions. That company says its ammonium-phosphate-based retardants are superior. The Forest Service used more than 50 million gallons of retardant for the first time in 2020 as increasingly destructive wildfires plague the West.

AP
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Russian forces are battling to surround the Ukrainian military’s last stronghold in a long-contested eastern province, as shock still reverberates from a Russian airstrike on a shopping mall that killed at least 18 people. Moscow’s battle to wrest the entire Donbas region from Ukraine saw Russian forces pushing toward two villages south of Lysychansk while Ukrainian troops fought to prevent their encirclement. The U.S. director of national intelligence said Wednesday the most likely scenario is a “grinding struggle” in which Russia consolidates its hold over southern Ukraine by the fall. Meanwhile, search teams and relatives raced to find people missing in the wreckage of the Amstor shopping center in the city of Kremenchuk.

AP
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A series of clandestine, against-the-odds helicopter missions to reach besieged soldiers are being celebrated in Ukraine as one of the riskiest, most heroic feats of military derring-do in the four-month war against Russia. The flights delivered supplies and evacuated wounded during the last-ditch defense of the Azovstal steel mill. It was surrounded by Russian forces in the brutalized city of Mariupol. Ukrainian troops were pinned down for weeks, their supplies running low, their dead and injured stacking up. Ukraine’s president first spoke of the sometimes deadly helicopter resupply missions only after Azovstal’s defenders started surrendering in May. The Associated Press has found and interviewed some of the wounded who were rescued from the death trap.

AP
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As Colombia’s voters put aside a longtime antipathy to leftists and chose one as their new president, they also have carved out another milestone — electing the country's first Black vice president. When former leftist rebel Gustavo Petro takes office as president on Aug. 7, a key player in his administration will be Francia Marquez, his running mate in Sunday’s runoff election. Marquez is an environmental activist from La Toma, a village surrounded by mountains where she first organized campaigns against a hydroelectric project. She then challenged wildcat gold miners who were invading collectively owned Afro-Colombian lands. Analysts say her appeal to Afro-Colombian voters was a key factor in Petro being able to eke out his narrow victory.

AP
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Energy market turmoil caused by the war in Ukraine has triggered an increase in coal-fired electricity production in the European Union and a temporary slowdown in the closure of power plants long-earmarked for retirement.  Greece set an ambitious timeline to end decades of reliance on lignite ‒ low-quality coal ‒ but has paused that program in response to a huge rise in natural gas prices. European policymakers, and many experts, argue that coal’s return will be short lived, acting only as a backstop until renewable capacity is increased and new power infrastructure and grid connectivity is expanded.

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Ukrainian and British officials have warned that Russian forces are relying on weapons with potential to cause mass casualties as they try to make headway in capturing eastern Ukraine. The U.K. Defense Ministry said Saturday that Russian bombers have likely been launching heavy 1960s-era anti-ship missiles that can cause severe collateral damage and casualties when used on land targets. A regional governor accused Russia of using incendiary weapons in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk province. Both sides have been expending large amounts of weaponry in what has become a grinding war of attrition. During a visit by the European Union’s top official, Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy called for “even stronger” EU sanctions against Russia.

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From Ukraine's battlefronts comes rap music filled with the fury of a young generation that will certainly never forget and may never forgive. Ukrainian rapper-turned-soldier Otoy is putting the war into words and thumping baselines. He has penned lyrics under Russian shelling and has written on his phone with the light turned low while taking cover. His lyrics with expletives directed at Russia and stark descriptions of Russian war dead. They speak from the heart. He lost his older brother in the siege of the Azovstal steel works in the devastated port city of Mariupol. But they also give voice to the cold anger shared by many of his peers that is now pouring out in song, art, online and in fundraising activism for the war effort.

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An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office says Russian troops have changed their tactics in the battle for Sievierodonetsk. Oleksiy Arestovych said Wednesday that Russian soldiers have retreated from the city and are now pounding it with artillery and airstrikes. As a result, he says, the city center is deserted. In his daily online interview, Arestovych says: “They retreated, our troops retreated, so the artillery hits an empty place. They are hitting hard without any particular success.”

AP
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Russia claims to have taken control of 97% of one of the two provinces that make up Ukraine’s Donbas, bringing the Kremlin closer to its goal of fully capturing the eastern industrial heartland of coal mines and factories. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says Moscow’s forces hold nearly all of Luhansk province. And it appears that Russia now occupies roughly half of Donetsk province, according to Ukrainian officials and military analysts.

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Ukraine’s military intelligence agency says Russia has so far turned over the bodies of 210 Ukrainian fighters killed in the battle for Mariupol. It says most of them were among the last holdouts in the Azovstal steelworks. The agency did not specify Tuesday how many more bodies are believed to remain in the rubble of the plant. Russia now controls the destroyed port city. It began turning over bodies last week. Ukraine said Saturday that the two sides had exchanged 320 bodies, with each getting back 160. It is unclear whether any more bodies have been given to Russia. The Ukrainian fighters defended the steelworks for nearly three months before surrendering in May under relentless Russian attacks from the ground, sea and air.