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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Report Slams Russia

STRASBOURG, France (AP) -- Despite steps to combat racism in Russia, ethnic minorities continue to face discrimination by extremist politicians, the media and officials at all levels of government, according to a report issued Tuesday by a Council of Europe panel.

The Council's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance said Russian authorities must do much better.

It suggested a good start would be to make human rights issues a curriculum topic from elementary schools to universities.

The ECRI's 35-page report -- its second on Russia's human rights situation since 1998 -- said Moscow has "taken some positive steps" to combat racism and intolerance but added these have not left a deep imprint on Russian society.

Land Law Signed

KIEV (Reuters) -- President Leonid Kuchma on Tuesday signed into law a decree giving Ukrainians the right to buy land, a historic and controversial break with the former Soviet republic's communist legacy.

A presidential spokesman said the bill will allow Ukrainians to buy land from 2005, a key development in the country's shift toward private enterprise and the West.

The law was approved by a slim parliamentary majority in October after centrist and nationalist deputies overcame strong opposition from the Communist Party and its leftist allies.

Paper Closed Down

MINSK, Belarus (AP) -- A court in Belarus on Tuesday shut down an opposition newspaper that has been accused of slandering authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Pagonia, a Belarussian-language weekly, was closed under a Belarussian media law that provides for a publication to be closed after receiving two warnings from the authorities within a year.

"This decision was taken on order from higher authorities," said human rights activist and lawyer Mikhail Pastukhov, who helped defend Pagonia. "It only shows that there is no justice in Belarus, that in this country one cannot hope for legal defense."

The Belarussian Journalists' Association protested against the decision and Pagonia's editor, Nikolai Markevich, said he will appeal it.

Crash Bodies Found

MOSCOW (MT) -- Rescuers managed to recover eight bodies and locate one more at the helicopter crash site in Sakha, Interfax reported Tuesday.

The Mi-8 helicopter crashed into a mountain in a remote area in the Far East republic last week, killing 11 people. The cause of the accident is still being investigated.

Radiation Bust

MOSCOW (MT) -- Two residents of the Sverdlovsk region were detained by local the Federal Security Service for trying to sell three containers of radioactive materials, Interfax reported Tuesday.

The containers of cobalt-60, a radioactive form of the common metal cobalt, were stolen from a regional industrial plant. The containers were emitting radiation 2000 times above the accepted safety levels of about 30 micro roentgen per hour.

The regional FSB launched a criminal case against the detainees based on an article of the Criminal Code that prohibits unsanctioned use and transactions of nuclear and radioactive materials.

Warhead Destroyed

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia has destroyed the last Ukrainian nuclear warhead handed over under a 1994 three-way disarmament deal with the United States, President Vladimir Putin said in a statement released Tuesday.

The Russian leader said Ukraine's nuclear-free policy boosted the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.

Under the 1994 pact Ukraine agreed to hand over all its nuclear rockets, warheads and nuclear-capable bombers to Russia for destruction. Ukraine inherited the weapons following the breakup of the Soviet Union.

U.S. Official Killed

KIEV (AP) -- U.S. consul general Gregory Paul Hulka, his 10-year-old daughter Abigail and another relative were killed in a road accident in central Ukraine, the U.S. Embassy said Tuesday.

Hulka, 44, was traveling Friday to a family wedding party in western Ukraine and was killed on a road between the towns of Uman and Nemyriv, the embassy said in a statement.

It gave no other details of the accident. The state-run UT-1 TV channel said the consul's car tried to overtake a truck in poor visibility conditions and crashed into a minibus that was coming in the opposite direction.

Also killed in the accident was the consul's relative, Yury Kotik, a Ukrainian citizen.

Talks Doomed?

MOSCOW (MT) -- There are forces in Russia that will not allow negotiations between Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov and federal authorities to go ahead, a Kremlin-appointed Chechen official told Interfax on Tuesday.

"There will be no talks with Maskhadov and his representatives on any issue," said Bislan Gantamirov, the chief federal inspector for Chechnya.

Gantamirov added that such "contacts will take place sooner or later, but only after total defeat of terrorism and separatism" in Chechnya.

Gantamirov and the head of the pro-Russian Chechen administration, Akhmad Kadyrov, who was also handpicked by Moscow for the post, are opposed to the negotiations because they compromise their status as Chechen leaders.

African Madam

MOSCOW (MT) -- A student from Kenya was detained in Moscow for running a brothel in a rented apartment near Belorussky Station, Moscow police said Tuesday, Interfax reported.

The young woman, who also employed women from the Baltics and the republic of Kalmykia, charged clients $70 for her own services and 1,000 rubles ($34) for the services provided by her employees.