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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Land Bill Passed


The State Duma on Wednesday approved legislation that will allow trade in nonagricultural land for the first time since the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.

Deputies passed the bill, Article 17 of the Civil Code, in second and third readings, with lawmakers voting 252-123 in the final reading.

The measure must be approved by the Federation Council and signed by President Vladimir Putin to become law.

The bill also states that the sale of farm land will only be permitted once a Land Code and a separate law regulating the trade in land are enacted.

Putin has ordered the government to send a draft Land Code to the Duma before May 1 and has given it a June 1 deadline to work out a framework bill on land sales.

Putin Replaces Rabbi

The Associated Press

President Vladimir Putin replaced the rabbi who previously represented Russian Jews on a Kremlin advisory council with a rival from an ultra-Orthodox movement, a Kremlin spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The spokeswoman declined to comment on why Putin booted Adolf Shayevich, who represents mainstream religious Jews, from the presidential council on religious organizations in favor of Berl Lazar of the New York-based Chabad Lubavitch movement.

Both Shayevich and Lazar claim the largely symbolic title of chief rabbi of Russia. Lazar is backed by the Federation of Jewish Communities, which was founded last year reportedly at the Kremlin's bidding.

Shayevich said his exclusion was connected to the Kremlin's conflict with Vladimir Gusinsky, who heads the Russian Jewish Congress. That organization is partnered with the Congress of Jewish Religious Communities and Organizations, which Shayevich heads.

New Gongadze Tests

The Associated Press

KIEV — Ukraine has asked the United States, Germany and Russia to conduct a fresh expert analysis of a body believed to be that of missing journalist Georgy Gongadze, President Leonid Kuchma said Wednesday.

Kuchma, accused by the opposition of involvement in Gongadze's killing, called for full transparency in the investigation of the case, which has prompted a political crisis.

"Nobody should think that someone wants to hide something, because today it's impossible to conceal anything," he said.

German experts recently concluded that a dried blood sample on Gongadze's medical card did not match the DNA of a body believed to be his, but did correspond to the blood of his mother. It was unclear which remains had been tested.

Kuchma said Ukraine had invited FBI experts to analyze the body after their earlier, inconclusive mission.

Meanwhile, Interfax reported that Andrei Shkil, the leader of a right-wing opposition group, was arrested by the security service Wednesday for his alleged involvment in organizing a mass protest, which grew violent in Kiev earlier this month.

Businessman Killed

The Moscow Times

The commercial director of the Novoarbatsky supermarket, Vyacheslav Gavrilin, was found dead Wednesday, apparently the victim of a contract killing, Interfax reported.

Gavrilin's body was found near the elevator on the first floor of a building on Rublyovskoye Shosse, the report said. He had been shot a number of times in the head and chest.

Gavrilin was also the commercial director of several other companies.

Sergeyev Speculation


Russia's security establishment was awash with rumors Wednesday about the fate of Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev, who has to extend his contract or quit next month.

Sergeyev will be 63 on April 20 and needs President Vladimir Putin's consent to serve another year. After turning 60, a marshal must ask the president to extend his contract every year or retire him. He cannot serve after 65.

Russian media said Sergeyev had already written to Putin to ask for the presidential nod to stay on.

"It is not clear whether he has done this yet," a Defense Ministry official said, when asked whether Sergeyev had written to Putin. The Kremlin press service said it had no information on whether Putin had received a letter.

Russia Slams Latvia

The Associated Press

Russia on Tuesday sharply criticized a gathering of Latvian veterans of Nazi Germany's Waffen SS and accused the Latvian government of supporting right-wing groups that organized the event.

About 300 veterans honored their fallen comrades Friday in Riga with ceremonies at a church and cemetery. They did not hold the annual march that in the past had been the main target of criticism from Moscow and Jewish groups.

Russia's Foreign Ministry condemned the gathering in a statement Tuesday, saying it was held "with the support of official authorities."

The veterans say the Latvian Waffen SS, also known as the Latvian Legion, was a conscripted, front-line force and wasn't the same as Germany's SS — Hitler's force that carried out the Holocaust and other atrocities. They say they were not Nazis, but patriots fighting against a Soviet invasion.

Latvian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Liga Bergmane criticized the Russian statement, saying the gathering had no government support.

"This is absolutely wrong. No government officials participated in this," she said in a telephone interview.

Becker Love Child


LONDON — It's official: Former tennis ace Boris Becker fathered a love child with a Russian model living in London, a British judge announced Wednesday.

The three-times Wimbledon champion, who divorced his wife earlier this year, had already admitted that he fathered 11-month-old Anna with Angela Ermakova, whom he met while competing at Wimbledon in 1999.

The Russian went to court in February to launch paternity proceedings against Becker.

Lucy Stone, baby Anna's lawyer, said that DNA testing on Ermakova, Becker and Anna had confirmed that 33-year-old Becker was the father.