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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Putin Signs Bills

The Associated Press

President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday signed more than a dozen bills into law, including a bill limiting the immunity from prosecution of former presidents and one granting some regional governors the right to run for a third or fourth term.

Putin also ratified an agreement with the United States to protect secret technology on U.S. commercial satellites launched on Russian rockets, according to a statement from the presidential press service.

His signature was the last hurdle for the high-profile bills, which have wound their way through State Duma for months.

Among the 16 other bills Putin signed into law Tuesday were a new tax on gambling and a plan to simplify compensation payments to nuclear workers who suffered cleaning up the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe.

Stars Turn Up at Trial

The Moscow Times

Two television celebrities testified in court Tuesday in defense of five former paratroopers and a retired colonel accused of killing investigative reporter Dmitry Kholodov.

Mikhail Leontyev, who anchors "Odnako" on the ORT channel, told the Moscow Military District Court that prosecutors are using "falsified evidence" and "extorted testimonies" to try to convict the suspects, Interfax reported. "Vremena" anchor Vladimir Pozner also spoke on the defendants' behalf.

A former Federal Security Service spokesman also testified Tuesday that he saw one of the suspects spying on Kholodov a few days before the killing.

Kholodov was investigating allegations of massive corruption and embezzlement in the army when he was killed by a briefcase bomb in March 1994. No one has been convicted in the case.

Powell Talks in Cairo


Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Tuesday he would hold his long-awaited first meeting with new U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in Cairo on Feb. 24.

The announcement put a firm date on a meeting that the State Department had said would most likely take place during Powell's Feb. 23-27 trip to the Middle East and Belgium.

Ivanov said Russia would continue to take a "constructive approach" on talks with the United States on START arms control agreements and the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, seen as among the most contentious issues between Moscow and Washington.

7 Soldiers Killed

The Associated Press

NAZRAN, Ingushetia — Seven Russian soldiers were killed and at least 19 were wounded in fighting in Chechnya in the past 24 hours, while Russian artillery and aircraft struck suspected rebel positions, an official said Tuesday.

Taking advantage of improved visibility compared to previous days, jets bombed targets in four districts in the south and west of Chechnya, an official in Chechnya's Kremlin-appointed administration on condition of anonymity.

Attack helicopters also rocketed targets in two districts, but a low mountain fog diminished the effectiveness of these strikes, the official said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from the aviation attacks or an accompanying artillery barrage into mountain areas of Chechnya, the official said.

Kursk Torpedo Eyed

The Moscow Times

The head of a government commission investigating the sinking of the Kursk submarine acknowledged for the first time Tuesday that a torpedo was likely to blame for the disaster that killed all 118 crew on board.

"For us, it was clear from the very beginning that a torpedo took part in the catastrophe," said Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov in remarks reported by Interfax.

In the past, Klebanov has been evasive about the cause of the disaster, saying that his commission was examining three scenarios: an onboard explosion and a collision with a World War II mine or another vessel.

Klebanov said Tuesday that his commission's experts are now trying to determine whether "an outside influence on a torpedo led to the catastrophe or whether some kind of process developed inside a torpedo."

Igor Spassky, a senior submarine designer, first publicly hinted that Klebanov's commission has focused primarily on the onboard explosion theory in January when he said "a very rare case led to such a wide-scale tragedy."

Japan Summit Set

The Associated Press

TOKYO — Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and President Vladimir Putin agreed Tuesday to hold a summit meeting on March 25 in Irkutsk, a spokes-man for the Japanese prime minister said.

Mori called Putin on Tuesday night to confirm the date for the talks, when the two leaders are expected to discuss a decades-old territorial dispute over four small islands north of Japan.

Officials from the two countries will hold working-level meetings soon to set an agenda, Mori spokesman Kazuhiko Koshikawa said.

Ski Resort Planned

The Associated Press

An Austrian company has signed a letter of intent to develop a ski resort in the mountains bordering Siberia's Lake Baikal, a company representative said Tuesday.

Valery Yashin, the Russia manager for the Doppelmayr company that produces ski lifts, cable cars and other transportation systems, said the company signed the agreement with Russian company Snow Land during President Vladimir Putin's visit to Austria last week.

The resort is to be built in Listvyanka, a village on the shores of the famed lake, which holds about 20 percent of the planet's fresh water.

Yashin said that the initial plan calls for building three chair lifts to service 14 trails, as well as a lodge, parking lot and medical facility.

The Vedomosti business daily said the project would cost $200 million.