MOSCOW

Separatists ask Putin to deploy troops after shootout

Separatists appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday to deploy Russian troops in eastern Ukraine after a shootout Easter night on the outskirts of Slovyansk left at least three people dead and four injured.

“Vladimir Vladimirovich, fascists who are killing our brothers are trying to conquer our small provincial town,” Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, a separatist leader and self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk, said on Rossiya-24 news network. “This is why we are asking you in the nearest time to consider the issue of introducing a peacekeeping contingent to protect peaceful civilians from the Right Sector and the national guard of Ukraine which bring about death.”

At least two attackers were killed and two of their utility vehicles were burned, Rossiya-24 reported. Paraphernalia belonging to the Right Sector, a Ukrainian nationalist organization, was found in one of the vehicles, the report said.Associated Press

BAGHDAD

At least 18 killed, 50 injured in new series of attacks

A series of attacks, including a coordinated assault on a private Shiite college in Baghdad, killed at least 18 people and wounded nearly 50 in Iraq on Sunday, officials said.

Less than two weeks ahead of parliamentary elections, Iraq is struggling to keep a lid on a surge in sectarian violence that has sent bloodshed soaring to levels not seen since the country was pushed to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007.

Sunday’s deadliest attack took place outside the southern city of Samawah, where two car bombs exploded simultaneously in a commercial area, killing seven civilians and wounding 17, police said.

PALMDALE, Calif.

Teen dies when suspect crashes SUV into her home

Officials say a 16-year-old Southern California girl asleep in her bed has died after a driver accused of being drunk crashed his SUV into her home.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department says that 20-year-old Roberto Rodriguez of Palmdale crashed his Nissan Pathfinder into the corner of an apartment building at 3:50 a.m. Sunday.

When deputies arrived, they found the SUV embedded in the building and the girl dead inside.

Rodriguez was transported to a hospital with minor injuries and has been booked on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter.

He’s being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.

KABUL, Afghanistan

Ballots still being counted in presidential election

More than a week after ballots were cast in Afghanistan’s presidential election, officials are still tabulating the results, but former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah has extended his lead to 11 percentage points over his closest challenger.

On Sunday, the Afghan Independent Election Commission announced the results from 40 percent of the ballots. The updated figures show Abdullah leading with 44.4 percent of the vote compared to 33 percent for Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister.

MIAMI

Cuba allows selling condoms that bear expired dates

Hoping to resolve a shortage of condoms that has sparked complaints around Cuba, the island’s public health system has approved the sale of more than one million prophylactics with apparently expired dates.

Pharmacy sales personnel must explain to the buyers that the condoms are good and simply have the wrong expiration dates, said a report Saturday in Vanguardia, the newspaper of the Communist Party in the central province of Villa Clara.

A Vanguardia report April 3 on the shortage said that the government agency in charge of certifying medical items in 2012 had noticed erroneous expiration dates on the “Moments” prophylactics imported from China.

Vanguardia did not publish the “wrong” dates, but its report hinted that they showed the prophylactics had expired or would soon expire. The shelf life of condoms is very long, it said.

VATICAN CITY

Pope makes Easter Sunday pleas for peace, aid to hungry

Marking Christianity’s most hopeful day, Pope Francis made an Easter Sunday plea for peace and dialogue in Ukraine and Syria, for an end to terrorist attacks against Christians in Nigeria and for more attention to the hungry and neediest close to home.

Well over 150,000 tourists – Romans and pilgrims, young and old – turned out for the Mass that Francis celebrated at an altar set up under a canopy on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica.

So great were their numbers that they overflowed from sprawling St. Peter’s Square, which was bedecked with potted daffodils, sprays of blue hyacinths and bunches of white roses. Easter is the culmination of Holy Week and marks Christian belief that Jesus rose from the dead after his crucifixion.

Francis noted that this year the Catholic church’s celebration of Easter coincided with that of Orthodox churches, which have many followers in Ukraine.

– From news service reports