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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

NATO Think-Tank

BRUSSELS, Belgium (Reuters) ? NATO and Russia plan to set up a think-tank of experts to explore ways of beefing up their practical cooperation, a NATO official said Thursday.

President Vladimir Putin said in Brussels on Wednesday he welcomed the proposal, which was made by NATO Secretary-General George Robertson, but gave no details.

"The idea is to bring people together in a nonbinding, flexible mechanism and then to just throw ideas at each other and see what comes up," said the NATO official.

The body?s tasks could include offering advice and information to Russia in such areas as defense reform and civil emergency planning, he said.

Iran to Buy Ships

MOSCOW (AP) ? Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani flew to St. Petersburg to visit a naval shipyard Thursday, two days after signing a framework agreement on Russian weapons deliveries to Iran.

Shamkhani is expected to discuss plans to build battleships for the Iranian navy with officials at the Northern Shipyards, Interfax reported. Russian experts expect Shamkhani to choose a corvette model designed by the Almaz design bureau worth an estimated $50 million, the agency said.

In Moscow, Shamkhani and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov signed an agreement that formalized a March accord to provide $7 billion worth of weapons to Iran over the next few years.

Kursk Rescue Efforts

MURMANSK, Far North (Reuters) ? Salvage teams preparing to raise Russia?s ill-fated Kursk submarine returned to the wreck Thursday after yet another delay caused by storms, but said they could not name a date for the lifting to start.

The submarine will be hoisted to the surface when divers have secured it by 26 lifting cables attached to mammoth hydraulic jacks on a barge moored overhead. So far, only seven such cables have been installed after three days of hard work.

"It is very difficult to name the exact date of the lifting," said Frans van Seumeren, president of the Dutch company Mammoet hired by Moscow to raise the wreck, along with another Dutch company, Smit International. "We are still optimistic," van Seumeren said.

New Butyrka Warden

MOSCOW (MT) ? The head of Moscow?s prisons directorate, Stanislav Podrez, dismissed the warden of Butyrskaya, or Butyrka, prison, Rafik Ibragimov, following a series of escapes from Moscow?s oldest prison.

Ibragimov submitted his resignation Tuesday after a second escape from the high-security facility in less than a month, when an inmate walked out of the jail after presenting guards with a forged Justice Ministry ID.

Another three inmates escaped last month and only two of them have been detained so far. Three Butyrka guards have been detained in connection with the escapes. It is not clear whether the guards participated in planning the escape or were simply lax in their duties.

Fires Rage On

VLADIVOSTOK, Far East (Reuters) ? Officials in the Far East said Thursday that firefighters had stopped forest fires sweeping toward a radioactive waste dump, but said more smoke was heading toward the city of Khabarovsk.

"The most important victory is that we managed to localize and contain the fires that threatened the radioactive storage," said Vladimir Zhuravlyov, a duty officer in the regional Emergency Situations Ministry.

On Wednesday night, television footage showed soldiers fighting to control flames near the waste dump.

Zhuravlyov said fires were still raging elsewhere in the hot, dry weather and a change in wind direction was sending poisonous fumes toward Khabarovsk, close to the Chinese border.

Next Stop Strasbourg?

MOSCOW (MT) ? The Moscow City Court rejected an appeal Thursday from Abdulla Khamzayev, a Chechen lawyer who sued the government and Defense Ministry earlier this year for bombing his home in Chechnya in October 1999.

However, Khamzayev was pleased by Thursday?s decision because it gives him the right to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Prosecutor Vladimir Ten asked the court to reject the appeal because the criminal investigation into bombings of civilians in Chechnya is not over "because no guilty parties can be identified."

Khamzayev gained prominence for representing the family of the 18-year-old Chechen girl slain by Colonel Yury Budanov, whose trial is continuing in southern Russia.

For the Record

Russia intends to evacuate family members of its diplomatic corps stationed in Pakistan and any other Russian citizens who wish to leave, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday. (AP)

Education Minister Vladimir Filippov may lose his post because the Kremlin considers him too conservative, Kommersant reported. Citing an unidentified Cabinet source, the paper said Wednesday that one reason for Filippov?s possible dismissal could be the pro-communist view reflected in history textbooks approved by Filippov?s ministry. (MT)