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U.S. imposes sanctions on 7 Ukrainians

WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration on Monday sanctioned more than a half-dozen associates of a Ukrainian lawmaker accused by U.S. officials of interfering in the 2020 presidential election by releasing edited audio recordings of President-elect Joe Biden.

The Treasury Department already had imposed sanctions on Andrii Derkach, whom U.S. officials have characterized as an "active Russian agent." They say he was part of a broader Russian effort to disparage Biden before the election by promoting false claims about his ties to Ukraine. That effort included meetings between Derkach and President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who has pushed unsubstantiated allegations about Biden.

On Monday, the department singled out seven Derkach associates, including three former Ukrainian government officials and a current lawmaker, as having worked with him to "make fraudulent and unsubstantiated allegations involving a U.S. political candidate."

"They have made repeated public statements to advance disinformation narratives that U.S. government officials have engaged in corrupt dealings in Ukraine," the department said in a statement. One of the seven, who is currently a fugitive facing corruption allegations in Ukraine, provided edited audio recordings that were subsequently released by Derkach last year, the Treasury Department said.

The sanctions mean that any property the individuals own in the U.S. is blocked, and that people in the U.S. will generally be prohibited from doing business with them.

Justices won't hear abortion-clinic case

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court has declined to get involved in a case about free speech outside a Pittsburgh abortion clinic.

The high court's decision on Monday to not hear the case leaves in place a 2019 appeals court decision that upheld a Pittsburgh ordinance creating a 15-foot "buffer zone" where protests are barred around entrances to health care facilities. The decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed "sidewalk counseling" within that zone.

The appeals court said the city can restrict congregating, picketing, patrolling and demonstrating in the immediate vicinity of clinics, but the zone restrictions do not apply to "calm and peaceful" one-on-one conversations by anti-abortion activists seeking to speak with women entering a clinic.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that he agreed with the court's decision not to take up this particular case because it "involves unclear, preliminary questions about the proper interpretation of state law." But he said the court should take up the issue of buffer zones in an appropriate case.

Memphis officer accused of slaying man

MEMPHIS -- A Tennessee police officer was charged with kidnapping a man in a squad car while on duty and fatally shooting him, authorities said.

Patric Ferguson, a Memphis police officer since 2018, was charged in the death of Robert Howard, 30, of Memphis. Howard was reported missing Wednesday, Memphis police said in a statement Sunday on Twitter.

Ferguson, 29, was fired after his arrest, the statement said.

Ferguson is accused of using a personal handgun to force Howard into the back of a police car and driving him to an area where he was shot, the statement said. An acquaintance, Joshua Rogers, 28, was charged with helping Ferguson move Howard's body.

Ferguson was charged with first-degree murder and other counts. Rogers was charged with accessory after the fact. Both were charged with abuse of a corpse and fabricating and tampering with evidence.

It wasn't immediately known whether Ferguson or Rogers have attorneys who could comment on their behalf.

Storm dumps snow in parts of the South

A winter storm brought snow to parts of the U.S. South, moving into Alabama, Tennessee and northern Georgia on Monday after blowing across Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi the day before.

The blanket of white falling across the region forced some school and government office closures, and fostered some play time for adults and children cooped up in the pandemic.

As much as 6 inches of snow fell across parts of southern Texas, the National Weather Service in Houston reported Sunday night. While the snow contributed to slick roads and power outages, some families took time to enjoy the weather in areas like Austin and College Station.

The system moved into Louisiana and Mississippi overnight, with Louisiana State Police warning people in an online video to stay off the roads if possible.

More than 110,000 customers in Texas and over 50,000 customers in Louisiana were without power early Monday morning, according to poweroutage.us, a utility tracking website.

Several school districts were closed, delayed or scheduled for only virtual learning in Mississippi and southern Arkansas, news outlets reported.

As much as 2.5 inches of snow fell northwest of Birmingham, Ala., forecasters said, and bridges were icy in spots.

-- Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports

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