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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Kiev's Chernomyrdin

The Associated Press

Amid concerns about alleged muscle-flexing by Russia in Ukraine, former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on Wednesday took up his new post as ambassador to Kiev — and immediately plunged into a political and religious controversy.

Chernomyrdin criticized Pope John Paul II's plans to visit Ukraine next month, echoing the position of the Russian Orthodox Church, which has jurisdiction over most parishes in majority-Orthodox Ukraine.

"The pope's visit is Ukraine's affair, but maybe it's not very good and not very right. We are Slav Orthodox. I don't think there should be cracks in our spirituality," Chernomyrdin said.

President Vladimir Putin named Chernomyrdin to the post earlier this month and also appointed him special presidential envoy on Russian-Ukrainian trade and economic relations.

Upon arrival, Chernomyrdin said he was aware of problems in Russian-Ukrainian relations, noting that his task was "serious."

"I wouldn't have agreed to go to any other country as an ambassador or anybody else," he said. "I don't need new posts, I have seen them all. But I understand what must be done both in Russia and in Ukraine."

Chernomyrdin, who does not speak Ukrainian, promised to learn the language.




Japanese Detained

Reuters

The Federal Security Service said Wednesday it had detained a Japanese journalist for illegally filming a military object.

But Japan's NHK television said its man had only been briefly questioned over a slip on a customs form.

A statement from the FSB office on Sakhalin Island said NHK television correspondent Ando Takasi had been arrested on March 30 for attempting to leave the country illegally with four videotapes.

It said one of the tapes contained footage of "an object of the Defense Ministry," adding that the FSB "determined that the foreigner made the films, knowingly violating the laws of the Russian Federation."

An NHK spokesman in Tokyo made light of the incident, saying Takasi had simply failed to declare in his customs form that he was carrying videotapes before boarding a flight.

He said Takasi was due to leave Russia on Friday as part of a planned personnel move.




Ukrainian Cabinet

The Associated Press

Ukraine's new Cabinet began taking shape Wednesday with the release of President Leonid Kuchma's decrees on government posts, but instead of new faces there were old familiar ones.

Under Kuchma's decrees, Foreign Minister Anatoly Zlenko, Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk, Interior Minister Yury Smirnov as well as Emergency Situations Minister Vasyl Durdynets are to retain their posts.

Red Cross Pulls Out

MOSCOW (Reuters) — The International Committee of the Red Cross said Wednesday it has halted operations in Chechnya after one of its workers was shot at a checkpoint in one of its clearly marked cars.

"Under circumstances which so far remain unclear, several shots were fired and Mr. Arbi Israilov — riding in this vehicle — was wounded in the abdomen," the Red Cross said in a statement on the incident, which happened Tuesday.

It said Israilov had been successfully operated on in a hospital the same day and that his condition was stable.




Uzbek Arrested

The Associated Press

Security officials said they have arrested an Uzbek opposition activist in Moscow and intend to hand him over to authorities in Uzbekistan.

Police and agents of the Federal Security Service arrested Nodir Aliyev, 28, on Monday on a warrant from the Uzbek Prosecutor General's Office, a duty officer in the FSB media relations office said Tuesday.

Russian officials said Aliyev was wanted on charges of attempting to overturn Uzbekistan's constitutional order and of attempting to kill the head of state.




Fresh Siberia Floods

Reuters

Floods have driven some 2,500 people from their homes on the Ob River in southern Siberia, less than two weeks after meltwater caused widespread flooding on the Lena River.

A spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry said the Ob River had swept over its banks and poured into more than 500 homes in Barnaul, close to the Mongolian border, forcing the evacuation of about 2,500 residents. He said the river was a meter above its critical level but added the situation was under control.

A government official said Tuesday the damage from earlier floods would run to almost 6 billion rubles ($200 million).




NTV Suit Delayed

The Moscow Times

The Moscow city court has decided to delay ruling for six months on an appeal from Media-MOST challenging a lower court decision to transfer shares in NTV and other subsidiaries to Gazprom.

The court on Tuesday also upheld a Media-MOST petition to notify Media-MOST Capital Management, a foreign entity, of the case in advance. Under Russian law, the notification must go through the Justice ministries of Russia and the foreign entity's home country, Gibraltar.




NTV.ru Hacked

The Moscow Times

A group of web sites controlled by Media-MOST were vandalized Wednesday by what the company said was probably a disgruntled employee.

Visitors to NTV.ru's site on Tuesday morning saw the message "We're so sick of it!!! If you see this page instead of what you expected, it means employees of NTV-Internet have finally stopped working for free. … Excuse us if you're disappointed, but we really want to eat!!!"

Yelena Bruni, chief editor of NTV.ru, said the problems arose at the web site's provider, NTV-Internet. Similar messages were placed on the Ekho Moskvy, NTV.sports and Inopressa.ru web sites.

The sites were cleaned up by Wednesday evening.




Poland Backs Baltics

Reuters

RIGA, Latvia — Poland will urge U.S. President George W. Bush during his visit to Europe in June to let the Baltic States join NATO in its second wave of enlargement in 2002, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said Tuesday.

"As a NATO member, Poland thinks that Latvia has to be a part of the second wave of NATO enlargement, which will enhance security in the region," said Kwasniewski at a news conference while on a working visit to Latvia.

"I will say this very thing to President Bush next month: NATO has to maintain its open-door policy, the Baltic States must be accepted as members," he said.

Russia is sharply opposed to the Western military alliance enlarging into the former Soviet Baltic republics, annexed by Stalin in 1940.