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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Kuzmuk Resigns

KIEV (Reuters) -- Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma accepted the resignation of Defense Minister Oleksander Kuzmuk on Wednesday, almost three weeks after his troops accidentally shot down a Russian airliner with a missile.

"I have accepted the minister's resignation and suspended other senior military officials," Kuchma said in an address on state television. "All missile launches have temporarily been banned."

The plane, a Sibir airlines Tu-154 flying to Siberia from Israel, exploded over the Black Sea on Oct. 4 while Ukraine's military was carrying out live missile exercises on the Crimean Peninsula. All 78 crew and passengers were killed.

Official Shot

MAKHACHKALA, Dagestan (AP) -- A high-ranking city official was shot and killed in her apartment in the republic of Dagestan, police said Wednesday.

Patimat Yusupova, 52, the deputy head of administration in the city of Kizilyurt, was responsible for media, health and elections. She was found dead with two gunshot wounds to the head Tuesday, said Abdul Musayev, chief of the Dagestani Interior Ministry's press service.

Police considered the killing a contract hit, he said. But he did not reveal any possible motives or other details of the investigation.

Spaniards Alive

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) -- Two Spanish businessmen who were kidnapped in Georgia last year are alive and are in the Pankisi Gorge, on the border with Russia's breakaway region of Chechnya, Georgian Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze said Wednesday.

He said the government was continuing to take steps to free the men but did not give details.

Jose Antonio Tremino and Francisco Rodriguez were kidnapped on their way to the airport outside Tbilisi in November.

5 on Trial for Murder

MINSK, Belarus (AP) -- Five men went on trial Wednesday in a Minsk court on charges of murdering a Belarussian cameraman for Russia's ORT state-controlled television.

Dmitry Zavadsky went missing on July 7, 2000, after he left for Minsk airport to meet a Russian colleague. He was one of several well-known people who have disappeared in Belarus in recent years.

The government says Zavadsky was kidnapped by a group led by a former officer of the elite Almaz police force, Valery Ignatovich, who was angered by his reports. However, opposition groups suspect government involvement, saying those who disappeared were targeted because they ran afoul of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Chernobyl Cancers

LISBON, Portugal (Reuters) -- Chernobyl, the world's worst nuclear accident, is linked to nearly 2,000 thyroid cancer cases, the largest number of cancers associated with a known cause on a specific date, scientists said Tuesday.

Although it is 15 years since a cloud of radioactive dust spewed from the explosion of Chernobyl's No. 4 reactor in 1986, new cases of cancer associated with the accident are still being reported.

"Four years after the accident, an excess of thyroid cancers was noted among children who had been exposed to fallout from the disaster," Professor Dillwyn Williams of the Strangeways Research Laboratory at England's Cambridge University told the ECCO 11 cancer conference in Lisbon. "That increase has continued and new cases are still being seen in those who were children at the time of the accident."

Kiev Mystery Deaths

KIEV (AP) -- A bodyguard and a driver working for the speaker of Ukraine's parliament died in a park in Kiev, a parliamentary official said Wednesday, and officials gave varying accounts of the causes of death.

Police found the body of the 56-year-old bodyguard, Pavlo Poteryaiko, on Tuesday morning in a park. The 38-year-old driver, Oleksandr Skliar, was found nearby and appeared to be intoxicated, police said. Skliar died Tuesday afternoon before an ambulance arrived. No signs of violent death were found.

Serhiy Kuzyi, a parliamentary spokesman, confirmed Skliar was the private driver of speaker Ivan Pliushch, but could not say definitely whether Poteryaiko was Pliushch's personal bodyguard.

Pliushch is currently undergoing medical treatment and was not available for comment.

Interior Minister Yury Smirnov said Wednesday the driver and bodyguard died of natural causes, either of food or alcohol poisoning, according to Interfax. Health officials said the men died of heart attacks, but final conclusions were to be revealed only after a full forensic examination. The Interior Ministry's press service declined to provide details of the investigation.

Sharansky Visit

MOSCOW (AP) -- Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky said Wednesday that he had found understanding among Russian officials for Israel's tough stance toward the Palestinians, but there was still a strong divide between Tel Aviv and Moscow over providing military technology to Iran.

"Israel expects tougher steps from Russia to step up control over the flow of technologies to countries such as Iran," Interfax quoted Sharansky as saying.

"Although certain progress has been made here, we believe that Russia can do much more."

Sharansky met Tuesday with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. He also held a series of meetings with Russian Jewish community leaders and gave several interviews to Russian media in which he defended Israel's position.

For the Record

The navy said Wednesday it had raised most of the Kursk nuclear submarine out of the water for the first time since it sunk 14 months ago. (Reuters)

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is to travel to Russia on a state visit from Nov. 4 to Nov. 7, a government statement said Tuesday.(Reuters)