SLOVYANSK, Ukraine

- Pro-Russian militants in camouflage fatigues and black balaclavas paraded captive European military observers before the media yesterday, hours after three Ukrainian security guards were shown on Russian TV bloodied, blindfolded and stripped of their trousers and shoes, their arms bound with packing tape.

The provocative displays came as the increasingly ruthless pro-Russian insurgency in the east turns to hostage-taking as an ominous new tactic.

Germany's foreign minister condemned the appearance as "revolting" and a violation of the men's dignity. Four members of the team are German.

One observer, a Swedish officer, was released later in the day for medical reasons. Dozens of people are being held hostage, including journalists and pro-Ukraine activists, in makeshift jails in Slovyansk in the heart of the separatists' territory, as the pro-Russian insurgents strengthen their control in the east in defiance of the interim government in Kiev and its Western supporters.

Palestinian prez calls Holocaust 'heinous'

JERUSALEM

- The Palestinian president yesterday called the Holocaust "the most heinous crime" of modern history, voicing a rare acknowledgment of Jewish suffering shortly before Israel held its annual memorial for victims of the Nazi genocide.

President Mahmoud Abbas' announcement appeared to be aimed at reaching out to Israeli public opinion at a time of deep crisis in U.S.-backed peace efforts. Israelis frequently claim the Palestinians are not sincere about wanting peace.

While Israel's national Holocaust memorial said Abbas' comments may be a step in the right direction, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brushed them aside.

Obama presses human rights in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia

- President Obama yesterday pressed the Malaysian government to improve its human-rights record and appealed to Southeast Asia's teeming youth population to stand up for the rights of minorities and the rule of law.

Yet Obama skipped a golden chance to promote that human-rights agenda, declining to meet with opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Instead, he directed national security adviser Susan Rice to see Anwar today.

Obama said his decision was "not indicative of our lack of concern" about the former deputy prime minister who recently was convicted for the second time on sodomy charges, which the U.S. and international human rights groups contend are politically motivated.

Obama said he had raised his concerns about Malaysia's restrictions on political freedoms during meetings with Prime Minister Najib Razak.

"Those values are at the core of who the U.S. is, but also I think are a pretty good gauge of whether a society is going to be successful in the 21st century or not," Obama said during a news conference with Najib.

- Daily News wire services