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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Grozny Civilians Shot

The Associated Press

At least seven civilians have been shot to death in Grozny, officials said Tuesday, blaming the attacks on insurgents seeking to stoke violence in Chechnya.

All the victims, killed during the past three days, were found in Grozny's Leninsky district, officials said.

"Five elderly women, the oldest of them aged 65, and two middle-aged men were brutally killed by bandits," a spokesman for the Interior Ministry forces in the Caucasus, Yury Boronyuk, said in remarks broadcast on television.

All were ethnic Russians, and all were shot in the head, Boronyuk said.

But the Defense Ministry and Chechnya's top prosecutor, Vsevolod Chernov, said 10 civilians had been murdered. The victims included eight Russians and two Chechens, Interfax reported. The reports could not immediately be reconciled.

"It is possible that this is yet another raid by militants who are unhappy about the restoration of peace, and who therefore try to destabilize the situation in every possible way," Chernov said.

Budanov Trial

The Associated Press

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Southern Russia — The first trial of a military officer accused of committing human rights violations in Chechnya resumed briefly Tuesday behind closed doors as Cossacks staged demonstrations to protest the prosecution of a man they consider a patriot.

Colonel Yury Budanov, the commander of a tank regiment, has been charged with abducting 18-year-old Heda Kungayeva from her family home near the Chechen village of Tangi-Chu and murdering her. Budanov has admitted strangling the young woman, but denies the killing was premeditated.

Judge Viktor Kostin declared Tuesday's session closed, and soon adjourned the trial until April 10 because no one from the victim's side was present. Abdulla Khamzayev, a lawyer representing Kungayeva's family, had sent a telegram requesting a break in the trial due to Kungayeva's mother's ill health, the judge said.

Kiev Police Protest

The Associated Press

KIEV — In the newest twist in Ukraine's protest movement, police on Tuesday stood on both sides of the barricades: those demanding higher pay and an end to allegedly opposition-incited violence, and those keeping order.

About 4,000 people gathered near the parliament building in downtown Kiev, listening to speeches and holding placards that read: "Police and the people are one" and "Provide police with legislators' pay!" The average police salary is about 250 hryvna ($45) a month, according to the Interior Ministry, and police retirees can hope at most for a pension of about 143 hryvna.

Although the demonstration was supposed to include only police veterans, many in the crowd appeared to be young officers on active duty who had arrived from across Ukraine. They demanded that the opposition refrain from violence.

"Ukrainian police shall never spill the people's blood," one of the placards proclaimed.

Opposition protesters who have staged rallies against President Leonid Kuchma for the past three months have blamed police for violent clashes during a March 9 demonstration.

Ex-Cop Arrested

The Associated Press

Security forces in Kaliningrad have broken up an arms-smuggling gang led by a former police officer and confiscated explosives and other weapons, an official said Tuesday.

Transport police, a division of the Interior Ministry forces, arrested the former police major on Thursday in the town of Sovetsk in the Kaliningrad region.

The man had previously worked in a regional anti-organized crime unit, said Alexander Glushkov, a duty officer with the transport police. Authorities confiscated 2.35 kilograms of TNT explosives, a pistol and bullets, he said.

Less Contract Killings

The Associated Press

The number of contract murders fell sharply in 2000 compared with the previous year, while police are solving a larger percentage of the slayings, according to official statistics released Tuesday.

Police investigated 386 suspected cases of murder-for-hire in 2000, and sent 146 cases to court, said Alexander Kirushev, a chief investigator at the Interior Ministry.

These figures compared favorably with 1999, when police investigated 591 suspected contract murders and sent 155 to court, he said.

However, critics have frequently accused police of over-reporting the number of crimes solved.

Meanwhile, the overall murder rate in Russia rose slightly in 2000 compared with 1999. Police reported 31,829 murders in 2000 and solved 24,993, compared with 31,140 reported and 24,513 solved in 1999.

3,500 Reindeer Starve

The Associated Press

More than 3,500 reindeer have starved to death this winter in the Far North region of Chukotka, the Emergency Situations Ministry said Tuesday.

The reindeer, from herds raised on 70 farms, are a mainstay for the local population, providing meat, fur and transport. Many have been unable to break through ice that has formed over the lichens that provide their main sustenance, said Viktor Beltsov, a ministry spokesman.

Poet Krivulin Dead

The Moscow Times

ST. PETERSBURG — Renowned poet Viktor Krivulin — who could boast both a tutelage under poet Anna Akhmatova and friendship with the late Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky — has died. He was 56.

Krivulin, who died Saturday of lung cancer, published dozens of books of poetry, most of which were also printed abroad and circulated via samizdat — self-published journals within the Soviet Union.

At the time of his death he was the vice president of the St. Petersburg Pen Club and the deputy chairman of the local branch of the Democratic Russia party.

Funeral services were to be held at the Smolenskoye Cemetery on Wednesday.