Russia announced on Thursday it had started military exercises near the border with Ukraine, in what is likely to be seen as a show of force in the standoff with Kiev and the West over Crimea. The Defence Ministry confirmed exercises had begun in the Southern Military District, involving 8,500 artillery men, after pictures appeared on social media showing military vehicles on the move in the area. The exercise includes a large number of artillery and Grad, Hurricane and Tornado multiple-rocket launchers, the Defence Ministry said in a statement on its website. Russian forces' takeover of Ukraine's Crimea region has been bloodless but tensions are high there following the pro-Russian regional parliament's decision to hold a referendum on Sunday on joining Russia.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — In another sign the world economy is finally picking up steam after five years of recession and anemic growth, New Zealand on Thursday embarked on a series of interest rate hikes.
The OECD said on Thursday it had postponed all activities related to Russia's accession to the organization following a request from its 34 members. The move by the organization, which includes economic heavyweights such as the United States, Germany, France, Japan and Mexico, is the latest effort to apply pressure on Moscow ahead of a referendum on Sunday in which Ukraine's southern region of Crimea could vote to secede and join Russia. The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development did not give further details, but according to its website the grouping opened discussions with Russia in 2007 for membership of the organisation. The accession procedure is complex and can be long, as it involves a series of examinations to assess a country's ability to meet OECD standards in a wide range of policy areas.