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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Duma Deputy Shot


A gunmen opened fire Wednesday on a member of the State Duma in his car in downtown Moscow, injuring him and killing his driver, police said.

Bashir Kodzoyev, a member of the pro-Kremlin Unity party, suffered gunshot wounds in the chest and arm. Party officials said he was in a stable condition in the hospital.

Police said the unidentified gunmen opened fire on his passing car from the third floor of a building and escaped. No reason was given for the attack.

Tobin Nears Trial

The Associated Press

The investigation of American graduate student John Tobin, who was arrested on drug charges and accused of having ties to U.S. intelligence services, is in its final stage, a police official was quoted as saying Wednesday.

Tobin, was arrested Feb. 1 in Voronezh, 475 kilometers south of Moscow, and held on suspicion of possessing 4.5 grams of marijuana.

Andrei Makarov, a senior investigator for the police in Voronezh, said the investigation is likely to be completed by the end of the month.

"A few investigatory activities remain, after which the case will be sent to the court," Interfax quoted him as saying.

Canada Crackdown


OTTAWA Canadas Foreign Ministry said Wednesday it had badly mishandled the case of drunk Russian diplomat Andrei Knyazev, whose car struck and killed an Ottawa woman, and vowed to crack down on drunk driving by foreign envoys.

"I am saddened and angered by evidence that deficiencies in handling Andrei Knyazev may have contributed to the tragic accident on Jan. 27," Foreign Minister John Manley told a news conference.

Manley said sloppy paperwork, poor liaison between various sections of the ministry and policy shortcomings had prevented officials from realizing Knyazev was a dangerous driver who needed to be dealt with.

Belarus NGO


MINSK, Belarus Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko on Wednesday banned foreign donations to local nongovernmental organizations for political activities or election monitoring, his press service said.

The move comes ahead of an expected September presidential election, and opposition politicians described it as a sign that Lukashenko was trying to clamp down on them and rig the poll.

"Humanitarian aid from abroad cannot be used to support actions designed to change the constitution, or to usurp or remove state authority," a spokesman for Lukashenkos press service said.

He said the ban covered all donations to NGOs that were not sanctioned by Lukashenko, and covered any funds used to prepare elections, referendums, protests and printed matter used for "agitation."

Factory Seized

The Associated Press

YEKATERINBURG, Ural Mountains Acting on a court order, masked police stormed the coveted Uralelektrotyazhmash manufacturing plant on Wednesday and encircled the factory to keep out its director.

The seizure of the high-voltage wire factory in Yekaterinburg came amid allegations that its director, Yury Kazantsev, and regional officials were siphoning off hundreds of thousands of dollars a month in profits.

The companys board voted recently to replace Kazantsev, accusing him of corruption.

But Kazantsev said the vote was illegal, the charges were false and claimed that he had saved the factory from collapse.

Caucasus Landslide

The Associated Press

Hundreds of large boulders tumbled off a mountain slope in southern Russia, blocking a road and cutting off a village from vehicle traffic, an emergency official said Wednesday.

The landslide Tuesday left heaps of rock seven meters high covering about 40 meters of road in the Republic of Karachayevo-Cherkessia in the Caucasus Mountains, said Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman Irina Andriyanova.

Nobody was hurt in the slide, but about 150 inhabitants in the village of Pkhiya were left isolated. Road crews planned to dynamite the rocks and clear the road by Thursday, she said.

Robinson Call


GENEVA UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson is calling for an end to serious abuses on both sides in the fighting between Russian forces and Chechen rebels in Chechnya.

In a report Tuesday, she urged separatist Chechen rebels to halt kidnapping, hostage-taking and other offenses against civilians and local authorities and for federal forces to end their killings in Chechnya.

"Reports of serious human rights violations carried out by Chechen fighters against federal and local authorities and against civilians continue," she said.

Anthem Text Passed

The Associated Press

The Federation Council on Wednesday approved new words to go with the melody of the Soviet national anthem, reinstated as Russias anthem by parliament last month.

The vote in the Federation Council was 141-1. The measure, approved by the State Duma last week, now goes to President Vladimir Putin, who is expected to sign it.

The new words delete praise for the Communist Party and Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin, instead referring to Russia as a country "protected by God." They were written by poet Sergei Mikhalkov, who also wrote the Soviet-era words.

Mir Assurances

The Associated Press

KOROLYOV, Central Russia With just a week to go before the scheduled dumping of the Mir space station, space officials Wednesday assured a nervous public that they will be able to control the orbiters descent even in case of a power outage or computer failure.

But, the chief of mission control acknowledged that this operation may not be as smooth as planned.

"We anticipate two possible problems the batteries running low and the central computers failure," Vladimir Solovyov told reporters at mission control in Korolyov, in Moscows northeastern outskirts.

Mirs descent date is tentatively set for March 21-22.