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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

It could only happen here

Here is a selection of news stories that have not made a big splash in the Western press. Mafia or myth? The alleged Russian mafioso who has haunted ice hockey star Alexander Mogilny may be no more than an old friend with a serious grudge. Sergei Pavlovsky was arrested after he was accused of attempting to extort $150,000 from the Buffalo Sabres' star scorer, who has quickly become one of the National Hockey League's best-paid players. News reports described the episode as an attempt by the Russian mafia to establish itself in North American hockey. A former player with TsKA in Moscow, Mogilny abandoned the team for North America in 1989 when the club was playing in a tournament in Sweden. He fled to Buffalo with Pavlovsky, a Russian who had emigrated to Sweden. From the start Pavlovsky acted as a translator and an informal agent for Mogilny, even receiving a fee from the American club -- some say $80,000 -- for his efforts. It was Pavlovsky who telephoned Buffalo from Sweden to inform team officials their star was on the way. According to Pavlovsky's lawyer, Mogilny agreed to pay Pavlovsky 7.5 percent of his then $1 million salary. According to Mogilny, Pavlovsky and another man approached him earlier this year in a restaurant and demanded he pay $150,000, threatening to break the hockey star's legs if he refused. Mogilny asked the two men to wait, walked out of the restaurant and called the police. Pavlovsky was arrested, but his lawyer has argued his client was only seeking a loan. No evidence points to a link between Pavlovsky and the mafia.(Moskovsky Novosty) Lemon heist goes sour Railway mechanics traveling with a refrigerator car full of lemons say they were taken hostage and only managed to save themselves by scribbling rescue letters on ruble banknotes. The mechanics say they used banknotes because they knew no one could resist not picking them up. They say the train was hijacked by three armed men after it left Taganrog in southern Russia. The hostages said they slipped the banknotes through a window that didn't shut completely. They were freed in Volgogradsky Region, about 200 kilometers away, but by that time the bandits had vanished. Only a small part of the lemon load was missing.(Izvestia) A thorny business The flower business in Moscow has rapidly come under the control of a handful of companies and it's next to impossible for an individual to take up the trade. Every square in the city has its "underground landlord," a person who controls commerce in the area and demands payments of 150,000 to 200,000 rubles a month. A flower seller must also pay the city 200,000 rubles for a licence, 90,000 a month for the right to sell, and 180,000 a month for garbage removal. Pushkin Square is the most lucrative area, but most high-volume spots have been taken over by large companies. A flower seller can earn an average of 50,000 to 100,000 rubles a day. (Argumenty i Fakti) Marathon man Marat Zhilanbaev pledges to be the first person to run around the world. Zhilanbaev, from the town of Ekibastus in Kazakhstan, plans to perform the jogging feat in 365 days. "People have gone around the world on foot, on bike, in a car, in a plane. But no one has run around it," the athlete said. (Segodnya) Crazy about privatization All public transport in Georgia -- buses, trolleybuses, streetcars, state-owned passenger cars -- are slated for privatization, President Eduard Shevardnadze told local television. Only the metro will remain in the state's hands. (Izvestia)