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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Cutting Nuclear Aid

The Associated Press

Russian on Friday expressed support for further cooperation with the United States in reducing nuclear proliferation, but said it was up to Washington to decide whether to cut aid programs helping Russia secure its nuclear arsenal.

U.S. President George W. Bush announced Thursday that his administration is reviewing the programs, prompting fears among U.S. lawmakers of cuts.

The Russian Foreign Ministry's chief spokesman, Alexander Yakovenko, said Friday that the U.S. reassessment was prompted by concern over the effectiveness of the programs, which he said was up to Washington to evaluate.

"The Russian side is ready for such cooperation, which should form the basis for all further deep cuts in strategic offensive weapons," he said.

Bush said it is in U.S. interests to work with Russia to dismantle its nuclear arsenal but that Washington must ensure that the money is being spent properly. The United States spends more than $1 billion a year on the programs.

Mobile Phone Ban

The Moscow Times

Anyone using a mobile phone while driving must be sure it is equipped with a hands-free device as of Sunday, Interfax reported. Violators can be stopped by traffic police and charged a fine of 20 rubles (about 70 cents).

The government resolution ordering the ban on handling mobile phones while driving — a standard measure in many countries — was signed by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov last month.

2nd Suspect Sought

The Associated Press

Investigators in a drug case against a U.S. exchange student are looking for another American suspect who also visited the central Russian city of Voronezh, security officials said late last week.

John Tobin, a Fulbright scholar, was allegedly caught using and selling marijuana. His case attracted attention last month because the FSB claimed he had U.S. intelligence training. No espionage charges have been filed, but authorities are threatening Tobin, 24, with up to 15 years in prison on the marijuana accusation.

Tobin and his defense team finished reviewing the case against him Friday, and told a judge they were ready for the trial to open, said a spokesman for the Voronezh branch of the FSB, Pavel Bolshunov. The trial date is to be set by the judge.

Meanwhile, the FSB is planning to ask Interpol for help in finding and arresting another American suspect in the case, said investigator Andrei Makarov. He declined to elaborate, saying only that the man also visited Voronezh, and is believed to be in the United States or some other country outside Russia.

No Fishing by Kursk

The Associated Press

A navy spokesman said that Russian forces on Friday escorted a Norwegian fishing vessel away from the place where the sunken nuclear submarine Kursk lies in the Barents Sea.

Igor Dygalo, a Navy spokesman, said the anti-submarine ship Admiral Kharlamov discovered the Norwegian ship in the area at about 1 p.m. Moscow time Friday.

Russia, which has closed the area around the Kursk, has expressed concerns about military secrecy involving the sub and its equipment. During a joint Russian-Norwegian effort to recover remains of the 118 sailors, only Russian divers were permitted to actually enter the hull of the Kursk.

Dygalo said naval officials expressed "deep concern," saying that the restriction on the area is well known.

The Kharlamov contacted the Norwegian vessel by radio, after which it altered course, Dygalo said. The Russian vessel launched a helicopter that escorted the Norwegian ship out of the closed zone at about 3 p.m., he said.

Soviet Graffiti


BERLIN — Two German politicians tired of reminders of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany want World War II graffiti displayed on the walls of Berlin's parliament to be removed.

"The German parliament in the Reichstag building is today above all the home of German parliamentarians and is not a historical documentation center," Horst Gunther and Johannes Singhammer, deputies belonging to the conservative opposition to Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, said in a statement Friday.

Red Army soldiers scribbled their names and various slogans on the walls of the Reichstag after they invaded Berlin in 1945.

When British architect Norman Foster refurbished the building ahead of the lower house of parliament's 1999 move from Bonn back to Berlin, he preserved much of the graffiti on corridor walls as a testament to the past.

But Gunther and Singhammer have called for cross-party support for a move to limit the graffiti to one centralized part of the building.

"More than 95 percent of the graffiti are names without further details," they said. "The historical value of repeating names across more than 100 meters of the Reichstag's inner walls is limited."

Most of the graffiti, which includes some expletives, is of the "I was here" variety, but some of it praises Soviet leader Stalin and expresses hatred for Adolf Hitler.

President Vladimir Putin visited the Reichstag last year to see the graffiti.

Flesh for Sale

The Associated Press

CHISINAU, Moldova — Two women have been arrested in impoverished Moldova for selling meat, which tests revealed to be human remains, police and Interior Ministry officials reported Saturday.

A customer reported the women to police Friday after buying the meat, which they were selling in plastic bags outside a downtown butcher's shop, said the officials, who refused to be identified.

The women told police they acquired the meat from a state cancer clinic in Chisinau. An investigation was underway.

Police said they did not want to make an official statement because they did not want to create public revulsion and panic.