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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Pope Witness Testifies

The Moscow Times

A Moscow court questioned a witness in the espionage case against U.S. businessman Edmond Pope on Thursday who served on a commission that decided documents sought by Pope were not classified, news agencies reported, citing Pope’s lawyer Pavel Astakhov.

The witness, Oleg Kosiskin, a professor at Moscow’s Bauman State Technical Institute, was also questioned by experts who served on a separate government commission that later determined the documents handled by Pope were in fact classified, The Associated Press reported.

But Pope’s lawyer protested that one of the experts, Georgy Lovginovich, was closely tied to the case and could not be considered an unbiased questioner.

Judges also decided Thursday to call Professor Anatoly Babkin, the Bauman professor who was allegedly Pope’s contact, to testify in the case, AP cited Astakhov as saying.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the United States on Wednesday received the results of medical tests done on Pope by Russian doctors, who said they had not found any evidence Pope has cancer.

Chechnya Casualties

The Associated Press

NAZRAN, Ingushetia — Rebels killed five soldiers and wounded more than a dozen in a day of fighting around Chechnya, while federal forces retaliated with helicopter gunship attacks, an official said Thursday.

One soldier died Wednesday when his armored personnel carrier hit a landmine in Grozny. Three others were killed in shootouts with rebels at checkpoints overnight, said an official in Chechnya’s pro-Moscow administration.

Another serviceman died when three unidentified gunmen tried to kidnap him at a street market in the village of Starye Atagi. The soldier was hit on the back of the head, then shot when he tried to resist, the official said. The assailants fled.

Bomb Blamed for Fire

The Moscow Times

This week’s fire on a gas main in western Moscow was likely caused by an explosive device, and prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation, Interfax reported Thursday.

The fire broke out Tuesday, spraying a jet of flame into the air for several hours. No injuries were reported.

Interfax cited prosecutors as saying they are looking into three possible causes behind the blast: terrorism, extremism or hooliganism. Prosecutors said they are confident the explosion had not resulted from a technical malfunction.

Roads to Stay Icy

The Moscow Times

Meteorologists say roads in Moscow could remain icy Friday and possibly over the weekend, Interfax reported Thursday.

Alternating rain and snow combined with sub-zero temperatures Thursday morning created dangerous driving conditions, especially in the morning hours.

Moscow traffic police registered a significant rise in minor traffic accidents Thursday, although no major accidents had been reported, Interfax said.

Kuril Subsidies Hiked

The Associated Press

The government will increase subsidies to the disputed, impoverished Kuril Islands off the northern coast of Japan, in a bid to strengthen control over the strategic islands, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said at a Cabinet session Thursday.

He did not say how much money the islands will receive.

The four islands were seized by the Soviet Union in the closing days of World War II, and Tokyo has been demanding them back ever since.