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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Suspects Charged

The Associated Press

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Southern Russia — Four people have been charged with terrorism in connection with a series of car bombings near Chechnya last month that killed 23 people and injured 144 more, a police spokesman said Tuesday.

Captain Yury Ugryumov, the deputy press chief of the regional police in Stavropol said that the four had been detained and charged in the past few days. He said that about 20 more people suspected of involvement in the explosions in three cities near Chechnya had been declared wanted by police.

The series of bombings on March 24 was the deadliest since a string of apartment blasts in fall 1999 that killed some 300 people in three Russian cities. As in the case of the 1999 explosions, Russian officials blamed rebels in Chechnya but Chechen rebel leaders denied any role.

Karabakh Talks


Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is welcoming talks in the United States between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Interfax reported.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has invited Armenia's Robert Kocharian and Azerbaijan's Heidar Aliyev to meet Tuesday in Key West, Florida, to try to reach a breakthrough in the conflict that has divided the two Caucasus nations for 13 years.

"We hope that the meeting … will help to reach agreements, which could help to find a peaceful solution to the conflict," Interfax quoted Ivanov as saying.

Nearly 35,000 people died and around 800,000 were displaced in the conflict over the mountainous region, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but controlled by Armenian separatists since the late 1980s.

The Key West talks are being formally held under OSCE auspices and Ivanov said Russia had sent a delegation to Florida.

Jehovah's Witnesses

The Associated Press

A court in southwestern Russia on Tuesday ordered local officials to register a local community of Jehovah's Witnesses after five years of legal struggle, a spokesman for the denomination said.

A district court in the city of Oryol obliged the local justice department to complete all registration formalities within one month, said Alexei Nazarychev.

The 250-member Jehovah's Witness community in Oryol, about 350 kilometers southwest of Moscow, has sought registration since 1996, but the justice department rejected their efforts seven times.

Secret Agent Charged

The Associated Press

RIGA, Latvia — Amid fresh Kremlin criticism about prosecutions of former Soviet officials, Latvian prosecutors have indicted another Stalinist-era secret policeman for allegedly taking part in mass deportations in the 1940s.

Nikolai Tess, 80, was charged with genocide on suspicion he helped deport 138 people to Siberia in 1949, five years after Soviet forces occupied Latvia at the end of World War II, prosecutors' spokeswoman Dzintra Subrovska said Tuesday.

She said evidence against Tess included deportation papers signed by him. One victim was a 5-month-old baby and another an 80-year-old woman; some of the deportees later died in the harsh conditions of exile, Subrovska said.

Tess, who holds a Russian passport, was formally charged two weeks ago, but the indictment was only made public Tuesday. Subrovska said Tess hadn't been arrested but is under round-the-clock police surveillance.

The case has led Russia to renew its criticism of the court proceedings against ex-agents, nine of whom have been indicted or convicted since 1991.

A Russian Foreign Ministry statement issued late Monday referred to Tess by name and mentioned Mikhail Farbtukh, an 84 year old convicted and jailed in Latvia last year for participating in Soviet deportations.

Biggest Buddha


DUSHANBE, Tajikistan — Wish you had seen the world's largest Buddha statues, blown up by Afghanistan's radical Islamic Taliban militia last month?

Then head across the border to Tajikistan, where the world's largest ceramic reclining Buddha goes on display this month, 37 years after its discovery.

The colossal Buddha in Nirvana, 14 meters long and 2.7 meters high, will be shown to the public for the first time after decades of restoration, said Viktor Dubovitsky, deputy head of the Tajik institute of history, archaeology and ethnography.

Soviet archaeologists discovered the Buddha in Nirvana, dating from the seventh century, buried in the ruins of the Adzhinatepe Buddhist monastery in the south of this mountainous Central Asian republic in 1964.

Apart from its sheer size, Dubovitsky said the Tajik figure is important in that it proves Buddhism reached China and Japan from India not by sea but through this part of Central Asia.

He said the Adzhinatepe monastery was destroyed in the seventh century, when many Buddhist monuments were wiped out as Islam spread.

Recent events in Afghanistan suggest that the destruction is not over yet.

111 Sick Babies

The Moscow Times

More than 100 infants have been hospitalized in the central Russian town of Klimovsk after eating bad kefir and cottage cheese, Interfax reported.

Sixty-nine of the 111 babies — all under the age of 2 — hospitalized over the weekend remained in the hospital Monday, Interfax said, citing local Emergency Situations Ministry officials.

Four were in serious condition.

Angry parents were preparing to sue sanitary authorities for negligence, reported.