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Russian Actions Reignite Tensions Over Strategic Port in Ukraine

Russia’s guided missile cruiser Moskva appeared suddenly on the horizon, dark and imposing like a fortress in the twilight, and steamed on Saturday into this Black Sea port, where its sailors were given a hero’s welcome.

“Russia! Russia!” chanted hundreds of supporters from the embankment, as fireworks burst.

The ship, more than 600 feet long and bristling with guns and missile launchers, was one of several from the Black Sea Fleet that patrolled the coast of Georgia during the conflict between it and Russia. The fleet — which the Russians say sank a Georgian gunboat that fired on them — is based here in Sevastopol, a city populated mainly by ethnic Russians.

The next day, in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, President Viktor A. Yushchenko presided over the first military parade in years — with a massive display of tanks, armored personnel carriers and missile launchers — to celebrate his country’s 17th year of independence from the Soviet Union. Russia’s willingness to send troops into Georgia, another former Soviet republic, to settle their territorial dispute this month has made Ukraine jittery, and the pro-Western Yushchenko used the celebration to again push for inclusion in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

“We must speed up our work to achieve membership of the European system of security and raise the defense capabilities of the country,” Yushchenko said in a televised speech to thousands gathered in the city’s main Independence Square. “Only these steps will guarantee our security and the integrity of our borders.”

For Kennedy, An Unexpected Role in Finding the No. 2

Yes, Caroline Kennedy says, she was taken aback when Sen. Barack Obama asked her in the late spring to play a primary role on his vice-presidential search team.

“I was surprised and really honored,” Kennedy said Sunday in a telephone interview. “I thought it would be incredibly interesting and obviously important.”

When Kennedy endorsed Obama’s candidacy in January, making a considerable foray onto a political stage she has sought to avoid, she thought her announcement would be the extent of her public role in his campaign.

But for the past two months, she has been a detective, gathering information, asking questions and learning exhaustive details about some of the nation’s top Democrats. (No, she said, she would not share anything.) Either alone or with her co-chairman of the search team, Eric Holder, she sat with senators and members of Congress, governors and other party leaders to listen and gather their comments.

“It was very thorough — and it was wide,” she said of the net that was cast for Obama. “His goals and values were really clear from the way he approached it. He wanted somebody who was an independent thinker.”

They presented the information to Obama at a handful of private sessions, typically at Holder’s law office a few blocks from the White House. It was there, Kennedy said, that she watched Obama work his way down the path to selecting Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Bomb Kills 25 at Baghdad Dinner

Sheik Ayed Salim al-Zubaie held a large dinner party at his house in Abu Ghraib on Sunday evening to celebrate the release of a family member who had been imprisoned by American forces for three years.

But as the guests sat in the garden waiting for dinner to be served, one of them, a man wearing a yellow dishdasha, detonated explosives hidden inside the long robe. The bombing killed at least 25 people and wounded at least 29 others, according to Iraqi police.

Witnesses speculated that the target of the attack was a group of sheiks attending the dinner who were working with the Americans to fight insurgents.

“The smoke was everywhere mixed with blood and pieces of flesh,” said Yaseen Ahmed, 35, a guest who was wounded in the explosion and taken to a hospital in nearby Fallujah. “I went unconscious after that.”

Abu Ghraib, notorious for its prison, is a Sunni area about 18 miles west of Baghdad where local forces known as Awakening Councils are paid by the American military to protect their neighborhoods. Many of them are former Sunni insurgents who have incurred the wrath of al-Qaida in Mesopotamia for turning on them.

Three Years After Hurricane, The Backup Is a Fixture

On the seventh-floor parking garage of a Holiday Inn that calls itself the “jazziest hotel in New Orleans,” soldiers dressed for combat wait for the evening’s call to fall in. They chat, smoke and gaze out upon an American city still in need of their armed presence.

At a sergeant’s bark, these two dozen men and women, all members of the Louisiana National Guard, stand at attention for their nightly pep talk. The sergeant instructs them to drive carefully, to be alert, to keep an eye out for a hyperactive band of armed robbers and to remember: “We’re not here to make friends.”

They slap clips into their 9 mm pistols and climb into decade-old white sedans no longer of use to the state police. Then out they go, on patrol, their flashlight beams skimming like the nation’s eye across shotgun houses achingly abandoned and beautifully restored, down streets named St. Maurice, and Piety, and Elysian Fields.

On this night the shift supervisor is Sgt. Robert Barthelemy, 28, a brawny sawmill worker from Natchitoches, more than 200 miles to the northwest. But he has earned his street stripes, first as an Army tank commander in Baghdad and for the last 18 months as a soldier in New Orleans. He wants to be a police officer someday; maybe here.