KIEV, Ukraine

European-backed peace talks on Ukraine crisis begin

European-backed peace talks on ending Ukraine’s crisis began with little promise Wednesday when pro-Russian insurgents – who weren’t even invited to the session – demanded that the Kiev government recognize their sovereignty.

The “road map” put forth by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe calls for national dialogue as a first step toward resolving the escalating tensions, in which the insurgents have seized government buildings in eastern Ukraine and declared independence, while government forces have mounted limited offensives to retake control of the region.

But instead of a dialogue, the day was more a case of competing monologues, with the two sides as far apart as ever.

Denis Pushilin, a leader of the insurgency in the city of Donetsk, said his faction was not invited to the government-organized roundtable in Kiev, and that the “talks with Kiev authorities could only be about one thing: the recognition of the Donetsk People’s Republic.”

Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said in his opening remarks at the Kiev talks that authorities were “ready for a dialogue,” but insisted they will not talk to the pro-Russia gunmen, which the government has denounced as “terrorists.”

The talks lasted 2 1/2 hours and ended inconclusively, with only a vague plan to meet again in a few days.

PRETORIA, South Africa

Oscar Pistorius to undergo psychiatric evaluation

Oscar Pistorius will undergo psychiatric evaluation after the judge ruled at his murder trial Wednesday that his state of mind when he killed his girlfriend should be assessed by experts, possibly delaying court proceedings for two months.

The ruling was prompted by testimony by a psychiatrist on behalf of the defense that the double-amputee Olympic athlete has generalized anxiety disorder and that this may have influenced his judgment when he fatally shot Reeva Steenkamp through a toilet door in his home on Feb. 14, 2013.

The chief prosecutor, Gerrie Nel, then requested psychiatric testing – a move opposed by Pistorius’ chief lawyer. Judge Thokozile Masipa agreed with the prosecutor, saying it was important to independently assess Pistorius’ state of mind because the defense might now argue that he was not criminally responsible for the shooting because of his anxiety disorder.

MINNEAPOLIS

‘Miracle baby’ who survived 11-story fall recovering

A young boy who survived an 11-story fall from a Minneapolis high-rise has been dubbed “the miracle baby” and was recovering in a hospital Wednesday.

Fifteen-month-old Musa Dayib suffered a broken spine and ribs as well as a concussion and a punctured lung. Musa’s relatives believe he slipped through the railing of his family’s apartment balcony Sunday evening.

– From news service reports