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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Rebels Arrested

The Associated Press

NAZRAN, Ingushetia Two Chechen rebel leaders suspected of involvement in the kidnapping of foreigners in Chechnya have been arrested in Azerbaijans capital, Baku, and turned over to Russian authorities, officials said Sunday.

Ruslan Akhmadov, a Chechen field commander, and Badrudin Murtazayev, a top aide to warlord Shamil Basayev, were arrested last Wednesday and turned over Saturday, said Orudzh Zalov, Azerbaijans deputy interior minister.

Akhmadov is suspected of complicity in more than 30 kidnappings in Chechnya, including the abduction in 1998 of three Britons and a New Zealander who were later killed, Itar-Tass reported, citing sources in the Russian Interior Ministry. Murtazayev was also involved in the kidnapping of foreigners for ransom, the report said.

Mir Descending

The Moscow Times

The aging Mir space station descended to an orbit 247.7 kilometers above Earth on Sunday, but space officials said they would hold off preparations for speeding its fiery drop into the Pacific, the news site reported.

The preparations were set to begin after the station hit the 250-kilometer mark, but officials say they will wait until Mir reaches an orbit of 220 kilometers March 17-22.

Meanwhile, the space shuttle Discovery on Saturday successfully delivered the first replacement crew astronauts Jim Voss and Susan Helms and cosmonaut Yury Usachyov to the Alpha international space station, AP reported.

Duma Passes Anthem

The Associated Press

The State Duma on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly in favor of President Vladimir Putins proposal for new lyrics to accompany the recently resurrected Soviet-era anthem.

After a brief debate, the lawmakers in the State Duma voted 345-19 for the text composed by Sergei Mikhalkov, the poet who also co-authored the words to the old anthem.

The vote was one of the final steps necessary to bring the anthem back after the Duma voted to return to the old melody in December.

Lawmakers in the Duma put forward four competing versions of the lyrics, but one of two Communist-sponsored versions was withdrawn Wednesday before the vote.

Zhivilo Extradition


Russian prosecutors have sent documents to France backing up their request that businessman Mikhail Zhivilo be extradited on charges he tried to kill Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleyev, Interfax reported Wednesday.

Zhivilo, an aluminum boss whose bankrupted smelter has been taken over by rivals, was arrested in Paris last month on a Russian warrant. He was accused of plotting to kill Tuleyev, whose region is home to the smelter.

Zhivilo has denied the charges. His company has said Zhivilo gave himself up and was seeking asylum in France. But French prosecutors have denied that Zhivilo turned himself in and said police caught him on the Russian warrant.

Russia and France have no extradition treaty, so the extradition process could be a long one.

Justice Official Killed

The Moscow Times

The head of Moscows regional justice department and his chauffeur were found murdered in the officials apartment in northern Moscow on Sunday, a police spokewoman said.

The bodies of Yury Vlasov, 43, and his driver had numerous knife wounds and the assailants had tried to strangle them with kitchen towels, the spokeswoman said.

The apartment had been ransacked, with all books taken off the shelves, pictures pulled from the walls, mattresses and chairs cut open and even stuffed animals slashed apart at the seams, she said.

There were no signs of a break-in and the attackers didnt take any of Vlasovs electronic equipment, the spokeswoman said, adding that they may have taken jewelry and money. Police consider robbery the motive for the attack.

Regional justice departments are branches of the Justice Ministry that monitor the implementation of federal laws and the work of regional legal and notary offices.

Vlasov is the second high-ranking official to be killed in Moscow in recent weeks. The head of the federal public notary chamber, Anatoly Tikhenko, was shot dead Feb. 28 in an apparent contract killing.

Tobin Charges

The Associated Press

New charges may be brought against an American graduate student arrested in Voronezh last month on drug charges, a news report said Sunday.

Andrei Makarov, the senior investigator in the case, told Interfax that fresh charges may be lodged against John Tobin before the investigation is completed. He did not specify what the charges may be.

Makarov said he did not intend to release Tobin on bail or against a written pledge not to leave the city. He said the investigation against Tobin, 24, would likely be completed by the end of March.

Tobins case attracted attention because the FSB said he had ties to U.S. intelligence services. However, the agency stressed that he was not caught spying and no espionage charges would be filed.

Tobin was arrested Feb. 1 on suspicion of possessing marijuana. He faces 10 years in prison if convicted.

Avalanche Traps 200

The Associated Press

An avalanche of snow trapped 200 people in cars and buses on a highway in Siberia on Wednesday and left at least two people dead, emergency officials said.

The victims died from carbon monoxide poisoning while trying to stay warm in their snow-surrounded truck in the Krasnoyarsk territory, said Irina Andriyanova, a spokeswoman for the Emergency Situations Ministry. One woman in the truck was rescued and was hospitalized in serious condition.

About 50 cars and four passenger buses were stuck along a 4-kilometer stretch of highway. By late Wednesday, all the stranded motorists and passengers had been evacuated from the road to nearby villages, Interfax said.