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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Diplomat Still Free

The Moscow Times

Whether criminal charges would be brought against a Russian diplomat accused of killing one pedestrian in a driving accident in Canada remained unclear Monday as the Foreign Ministry continued an internal investigation.

"We have nothing new say," a ministry official said in a telephone interview Monday. Earlier the ministry said that the diplomat, Andrei Knyazev, was under internal investigation, but stressed that there was no criminal investigation launched against Knyazev.

Knyazev was urgently recalled to Moscow last week, after Canadian authorities charged him with impaired driving and demanded Russia strip the embassy official of diplomatic immunity.

Kuchma Recordings

The Moscow Times

Recordings of conversations between Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and his high-ranking subordinates used by the opposition as proof of a plot to bring down a journalist were not fakes, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office said, Interfax reported.

Contrary to previous assertions, prosecutors on Friday conceded the recordings had indeed been made in Kuchma's office. But prosecutors maintain the tape was well-edited and words were pasted together from different conversations.

Peppered with obscenities, the conversations included complaints against journalist Georgy Gongadze's writings as well as discussions of ways to shut him up. Last fall the Ukrainian opposition presented the tapes to link Kuchma with Gongadze's disappearance.

Prosecutor General Mikhail Potebenko was among state officials who denied that Kuchma's offices were bugged. Potebenko left for vacation Monday. Opposition members in Kiev said they suspect his vacation will end with his resignation.

Kiev Protesters

The Associated Press

KIEV — Hundreds of opposition supporters demonstrated against the government Sunday as political tensions grew, painting slogans on fences calling for President Leonid Kuchma to step down.

A mass rally is expected to take place Tuesday in Kiev.

Sunday's demonstration took place next to a tent camp that oppositionists had set up in Kiev in December. The protests are connected with growing distress over allegations that Kuchma had a role in the disappearance of journalist Georgy Gongadze, a critic of the government and of alleged high-level corruption.

Sergeyev on NATO


Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said Monday that NATO expansion eastward into the Baltics and former Soviet states could destroy a landmark treaty limiting conventional forces in Europe. Interfax quoted Sergeyev as saying ties with NATO had improved since Britain's George Robertson became secretary-general, but potential pitfalls remained.

Any offer of membership to the Baltic states and members of the Commonwealth of Independent States could severely damage ties.

"If there was such a development, NATO's military infrastructure would virtually reach Russia's borders. And if among the new members of the alliance there were Baltic countries and CIS states, then that could destroy the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty," Sergeyev said.

Borodin Extradition?

The Associated Press

BERN, Switzerland — The Swiss government was to formally ask the United States on Monday to extradite former Kremlin property manager Pavel Borodin to face prosecution in connection with money-laundering allegations, an official said. Raimund Renggli, a spokesman for the Swiss Justice Department, said the extradition request would be given to U.S. officials in Washington Monday afternoon.

Renggli declined to go into detail about the request. Borodin has been held without bail in the United States pending Swiss action since he was arrested Jan. 17 on a money-laundering warrant filed by Geneva law enforcement officials.

Discrimination Alert

The Associated Press

The American Jewish Committee on Monday urged more attention to Jewish history and culture in Russia.

The committee released a report titled "The Treatment of Jewish Themes in Russian Schools," alleging a biased approach or a disregard for Jewish issues in textbooks for Russian children.

A delegation from the committee was scheduled to present its 66-page report to Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Education Minister Vladimir Filippov on Monday.

The report looks at the treatment of Jewish history and of anti-Semitism in study aids used by students from elementary to high school.

Antelopes Snowed In

The Associated Press

More than 10,000 steppe antelopes have fled unusually deep snow in Mongolia and crossed into eastern Siberia in search of food, a Russian regional wildlife official said Monday.

Nikolai Ivanov, head of the State Hunting Inspectorate in Chita, a region of eastern Siberia, said that about 70,000 more emaciated antelopes were concentrated on Mongolia's border with Russia.

Daytime temperatures in the region are around minus 45 degrees Celsius, Ivanov said. The antelopes were apparently unable to break through thick snow to forage.

Steppe antelopes are on Russia's protected species list.

House Fire Kills 6

The Associated Press

A house fire killed six people from two families in the western Karelia region, a spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry said Monday.

The fire broke out Sunday in a private house in Shokhsa, a small town about 700 kilometers northwest of Moscow, said spokesman Viktor Beltsov. One person who was in the house managed to escape and was hospitalized with burns, he said. The cause of the fire was being investigated, Beltsov said. Itar-Tass reported the blaze may have started after residents overstuffed a fireplace with wood to fend off the cold.