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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Ekho Staff Nears Deal

The Associated Press

Ekho Moskvy journalists Monday reached a preliminary deal with Gazprom-Media to acquire a 9 percent stake in the radio station, Ekho Moskvy general director Yury Fetudinov said.

"An agreement in principle has been reached, but a lot of details remain that could sour everything," Fetudinov said.

Journalists, who own 28 percent of the station, say they are trying to get a controlling stake to retain the station's independence. The station was part of the Media-MOST holding founded by Vladimir Gusinsky. Last month, state-controlled Gazprom took over many of the group's assets in what critics saw as a Kremlin assault against critical press.

The station's journalists also want to buy Gusinsky's 14 percent stake, Fetudinov said.

Station editor Alexei Venediktov was meeting with Gusinsky in Israel on Monday to discuss a deal, he said.

The multimillion dollar price on the package of shares is more than the staff could afford, but several prominent business leaders have offered loans to back up the station, Venediktov said.




Chechnya Sweeps

The Associated Press

NAZRAN, Ingushetia — Federal forces combed Chechen cities Monday for suspected rebels, while special troops have been sent to a southern village to prevent protests against alleged detentions of civilians.

Troops seem increasingly weary and nervous over the daily mine explosions and attacks by small bands of rebels.

In the latest sweeps, they sealed all entrances to Gudermes and seized 12 people, a pro-Moscow official in Chechnya said on condition of anonymity. In other areas, two alleged rebels were killed and 15 detained.

In Serzhen-Yurt, villagers were planning a protest, insisting all detainees were innocent civilians, the official said. The military responded by stationing additional special force units in the village.

Russian authorities also claimed Monday they had intercepted a video address by rebel warlord Shamil Basayev to influential commander Ruslan Gelayev, promising an increased series of mine attacks and other raids in the summer.

"We have already bought 1,500 rocket grenades, we already have a lot of cartridges, but we are getting and buying more," Basayev's message was quoted as saying by the Kremlin's information directorate. The validity of the video could not be confirmed.




Right-Wing Merger

The Moscow Times

Three of the nine political groups making up the Union of Right Forces, or SPS, disbanded voluntarily Saturday, so its members could rejoin SPS after it changes from a loose coalition of liberal political organizations into a full-fledged party at its founding congress later this week.

The most prominent among the groups was Democratic Choice of Russia — the party that helped Boris Yeltsin come to power in the early '90s and included such well-known free-market advocates as Yegor Gaidar and Anatoly Chubais.

The other two groups were Democratic Russia and New Force, led by Sergei Kiriyenko, the presidential envoy in the Volga Federal District. The other six organizations disbanded earlier.

The members of all nine groups plan to join the new, unified SPS at its upcoming founding congress Saturday in order to help the right-wing faction survive after passage of the bill on political parties.




Kiev Press Memorial

Reuters

KIEV — Ukrainian opposition groups unveiled a monument to slain journalists Monday, marking the birthday of reporter Georgy Gongadze, whose murder sparked calls for President Leonid Kuchma to resign.

The headless corpse of Gongadze, who would have turned 32, was found outside Kiev last year. Kuchma's opponents say secretly recorded tapes prove he plotted the reporter's death — a charge he fiercely denies.

"We are laying a memorial to independent journalists in Ukraine today," said Socialist party leader Alexander Moroz, who played the incriminating tapes to parliament last year.

Police looked on as half a dozen socialist activists and anti-Kuchma campaigners set the 2-meter black marble monument into place outside the offices of a Ukrainian news agency in central Kiev.

"We're placing the monument here although we've not been given permission to put it anywhere," said Volodymyr Chemerys, a leader of the Ukraine Without Kuchma movement.

The monument's headstone, inscribed with the names and news organizations of eight reporters killed in the last decade, was cracked in two. Organizers said it had been vandalized in the stonemason's yard.




Lawyers for Teens

Lawyers for Teens The Associated Press

A charity fund founded by Boris Berezovsky launched a program Monday to provide defense lawyers for teenage suspects held in pretrial detention.

All suspects have the right to an attorney. But with the government chronically short of funds, underpaid public defenders routinely fail even to meet with their clients or study case materials before trials open, human rights groups say.

With a $1 million budget for the first year, the Foundation for Civil Liberties program would cover attorneys' services for the 4,000 to 5,000 suspects under age 16 who are believed to be currently held in Russia, said Pavel Arsenyev, head of the foundation's Moscow office.

Karina Moskalenko, a prominent lawyer and human rights advocate, said each defendant would be able to choose his or her own lawyer, and the fund would pay on average $200 in lawyers' fees.




For the Record

Combined Reports

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar arrived in Moscow on Monday evening for talks on boosting trade and on European security.

President Vladimir Putin announced at a Cabinet meeting Monday that he had signed the decree designating former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin Russia's ambassador and special envoy to Ukraine, Interfax reported.