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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Babkin Case Opened


The Federal Security Service has reopened a high treason investigation into the professor at the center of last year’s spying case against U.S. businessman Edmond Pope, Interfax reported Thursday.

It said Anatoly Babkin, of the Bauman Technical University, was called in for questioning more than two months after President Vladimir Putin pardoned Pope who had been sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for spying.

An FSB spokesman declined to comment on the case, which concerns Babkin’s arrest with Pope in a Moscow hotel room in April 2000 while allegedly discussing documents relating to the propulsion and fuel systems of the high-speed Shkval torpedo.

The FSB dropped its initial investigation into Babkin because of his ill health, and he later withdrew a statement accusing Pope of espionage, saying it had been made under FSB duress.

Kuchma Stands Firm

The Associated Press

KIEV — Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said he would not resign despite opposition pressure, which showed further signs of decay on Thursday when promised protests failed to materialize.

"There can be no question about my resignation. Sixteen million people voted for me in the elections and I’ve no right to betray them," Kuchma said, answering telephone questions from readers of the daily Fakty.

The opposition, meanwhile, suffered a new blow after promising that thousands of people would attend its rallies Wednesday and Thursday to press demands for the resignation of Kuchma and other top officials. The protest Wednesday drew only about 100 people and no demonstrators at all were seen Thursday.

Still, opposition leaders hope for a big turnout Sunday, when they plan to organize a concert near their tent encampment in downtown Kiev, followed by a mock trial of Kuchma.

Iran Wants Arms

The Associated Press

Iran plans to purchase about $7 billion worth of Russian weapons in coming years, and will disregard U.S. objections to the deals, the country’s ambassador to Russia said in an interview published Thursday.

Iranian weapons specialists also will be educated in Russia, Ambassador Mehdi Safari was quoted as saying in the government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

The interview came ahead of a planned visit to Moscow by Iranian President Mohammad Khatami in March.

Russia sells tanks, armored vehicles, munitions and other weapons to Iran openly, and the U.S. State Department has accused some Russian companies of exporting banned missile technology. Russia has denied the accusations

Safari said he was pleased Russia has not bowed to U.S. pressure.

Trawler Sunk


Russian border guards, alerted by a U.S. reconnaissance plane, shot at and sank a Russian trawler suspected of poaching Thursday after a daylong chase in the Northern Pacific, a border guard spokesman said.

The spokesman said a border guard ship had taken aboard all 28 crew members from the trawler, identified as Albatros-101, which had refused orders to stop for its papers to be checked.

He said a coast guard aircraft had fired at the trawler during the pursuit, setting it ablaze and wounding an unknown number of crewmen.

The incident happened near the island of Shiashkotan, in the northern part of the Kuril chain.

Bus Crash Kills 7

The Associated Press

Seven people were killed and 15 were injured when a bus carrying clothing traders crashed head-on into a fuel tanker in central Russia, emergency officials said Thursday.

The traders were on their way home to the town of Lipetsk late Wednesday when the bus driver lost control of the vehicle and it veered onto the wrong side of the highway 147 kilometers southeast of Moscow, said Andrei Rulyov, a spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry.

An initial investigation indicated that the bus’ steering mechanism failed, Itar-Tass reported.

Envoy to Chechnya

The Associated Press

STRASBOURG, France — The Council of Europe said Thursday it will send an envoy to Russia next week for talks on human rights in Chechnya.

It will be the third such visit in 16 months for Alvaro Gil-Robles, the council’s commissioner for human rights, who will be in Moscow on Monday to meet with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, members of parliament and the Supreme Court, the council said in a statement.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Gil-Robles travels to Chechnya to meet with "representatives of the local and regional administration, of the Che-chen government and its Sup-reme Court," it added.

Gil-Robles’ first Chechnya mission was in November and December 1999, followed by one in February 2000.

Drug Problem

The Associated Press

A United Nations official said Thursday that drug abuse was increasing in Russia at an alarming rate, even as the country has made progress in fighting drug trafficking.

Bruno Dato, head of the regional office of the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, said the Russian government registered 390,000 drug addicts up to the year 2000. He said unofficial estimates put the number of drug addicts in the country at about 3 million.

"For me the major concern that Russia is facing right now is the increase in consumption," he said at a news conference on the International Narcotics Board’s annual report.

Many Putin Pardons


President Vladimir Putin is dispatching more presidential pardons than Boris Yeltsin, an official said Thursday.

Anatoly Pristavkin, head of the presidential pardons commission, told a news conference that Putin had satisfied 12,800 pardon requests last year, 1,000 more than Yeltsin in 1999.

Among those pardoned by Putin was former U.S. intelligence officer Edmond Pope, convicted of spying and sentenced to 20 years in jail.

Pristavkin did not explain the reason for the increased number of pardons.