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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Kiev Slander Case

The Moscow Times

A Kiev court on Thursday ordered a criminal investigation on slander charges against Alexander Moroz, a leader of Ukraine's socialist opposition who has accused President Leonid Kuchma of plotting to kill a journalist who disappeared in Kiev in September, Interfax reported.

On Tuesday, Moroz played for reporters what he said was a taped conversation involving Kuchma, his chief of staff and Ukraine's interior minister in which they discuss ways to shut up journalist Georgy Gongadze. The Interior Ministry and the Security Service called the allegations slanderous Thursday and said the recording was a fake.

Also on Thursday, Jan Marinus Wiersma, chairman of the European Parliament's delegation for relations with Ukraine, sent a letter to Ukrainian parliament chair Ivan Plyushch calling for an independent investigation into Gongadze's disappearance, Interfax reported.

Reporters Without Borders wrote to Kuchma earlier this month, after a decapitated corpse believed to be Gongadze's was found outside Kiev. Interfax cited a letter from secretary-general Robert Minard expressing concern about the investigation and saying that Gongadze had been under pressure from law enforcement authorities for several weeks before his disappearance.




Dutch to Aid Kursk Lift

The Moscow Times

The federal government and the Brussels-based Kursk Foundation have selected two Dutch companies to help lift the Kursk submarine in a joint effort with the Rubin design bureau and the Norwegian branch of U.S. oil services company Halliburton.

Holland's Smit International and Heerma Engineering Services will participate in the salvage operation planned for next summer, Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov told reporters Thursday.

Neither Klebanov nor the secretary-general of the Kursk Foundation, Rio Praaning, who accompanied him, specified what roles the companies would play. Recent press reports have said Heerma will provide its Trialf vessel, designed specifically for such operations.

Klebanov and Praaning estimated that the operation will cost $75 million to $80 million, but some specialists have said the cost could be five times higher.

The Kursk Foundation was established Nov. 20 to raise funds for salvaging the Kursk. So far it has received about $190,000 from the Dutch government, which is being used for a feasibility study of the salvage operation.




Greens to Oppose CEC

Reuters

Environmentalists vowed Thursday to fight a decision by election authorities to throw out more than half a million signatures from a petition calling for a referendum that would bar imports of spent nuclear fuel. The Central Elections Commission on Wednesday refused the petition, saying many signatures were not authentic.

Campaign group Greenpeace said the decision trampled on the rights of those who signed. The statement said signers would appeal to the courts to challenge the decision. It said court cases should start no later than in 10 days.




Border Protection

The Moscow Times

President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that strongly protected borders were vital for Russia's future and ordered his Security Council to work on preparing a legal framework for a new migration policy, agencies reported.

Putin told the advisory body that Russia would maintain strong defenses along some 60,000 kilometers of borders despite troop cuts announced earlier this month, Reuters reported.

"No one wants to let fall a new Iron Curtain, but the technical means for defending our interests on the external borders of our country should be guaranteed," Putin said in televised comments.

The RIA Novosti news service quoted Putin as saying that although Russia's borders should be strongly defended, he did not want to scare nations away. "It's essential to … create an image of the border as that of a democratic state, open to the whole world."




Embargo Proposal

The Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS — Russia proposed lifting the UN arms embargo on Yugoslavia but keeping it for Kosovo, where new violence has flared between Serbs and ethnic Albanians.

A Russian draft resolution distributed to Security Council members notes that the conditions laid out for lifting the embargo have been met.

Russia, backed by the United States, is also pushing for an arms embargo against Afghanistan's Taliban.




Latvia 'Terrorists'

The Associated Press

RIGA, Latvia — Prosecutors in Latvia have filed terrorism charges against three Russian citizens from a radical communist group for recently occupying and threatening to blow up a church. Sergei Solovyev, 28, and Maxim Zhurkin, 23, were charged with terrorism Wednesday and Dmitry Gafarov, 17, the day before. The three also were indicted for illegally entering Latvia from Russia, the prosecutor's spokeswoman Dzintra Subrovska said.

It is the first time since Latvia regained independence in 1991 that anyone has been charged under its terrorism laws. The charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.