Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Gunship Attack

MOSCOW (AP) -— Military officials said Thursday that their helicopter gunships carried out rocket attacks against a band of rebels encircled by troops in Chechnya’s southern Argun gorge.

The rebels said by telephone that were not surrounded, and were successfully fighting back against the Russians.

Mi-24 combat helicopters on Wednesday launched strikes at the rebels near Sharo-Argun, 50 kilometers south of Grozny, a spokesman for the federal army group in the Northern Caucasus told Itar-Tass.

The rugged region is a key refuge for the rebels. It leads to the border with Georgia, which Russia accuses of sheltering rebels.

The spokesman said 25 rebels were killed, and a camp and radio transmitter had been destroyed.

Rebels from the band of leading rebel warlord Khattab, who uses only one name, denied in telephone conversations the Russian statements that the rebel forces were surrounded, and put guerrilla losses at five dead and one wounded.

State Merger Bill

MOSCOW (AP) — The State Duma gave quick, near unanimous approval Thursday to a bill setting rules for incorporating foreign territory into Russia — a document that could pave the way for a proposed merger with neighboring Belarus.

The bill envisages that any agreement on Russia merging with a foreign state or absorbing foreign territory would need approval by the Constitutional Court. If the court approves, the agreement would need to be ratified by both houses of parliament and signed by the president.

The Duma passed the bill 375-0 with one abstention.

Anti-Kuchma Protest

KIEV (Reuters) — More than 1,000 people marched through Kiev on Thursday to protest against President Leonid Kuchma and to honor the memory of journalists who were killed or have disappeared in recent years.

But the demonstrators’ attempt to march on the presidential administration and erect a marble tombstone bearing the names of dead reporters, including that of Georgy Gongadze whose murder sparked a political crisis, was foiled.

A battered truck, seemingly abandoned, blocked the demonstrators’ route, preventing the van carrying the half-ton memorial from following the protesters.

Police stood idly by as the marchers, from a coalition of groups dedicated to ousting Kuchma, fought vainly to heave the tombstone up a steep gradient with straps and rollers.

"This is a provocation, a provocation. They’ve done this on purpose, they’re all gangsters! Kuchma’s lot want to scare us!" a woman screamed.

Film Stars Meet Putin

MOSCOW (MT) — President Vladimir Putin chatted over a cup of tea with Jack Nicholson and other visiting U.S. movie stars late Wednesday at the house of famed film director Nikita Mikhalkov, Agence France Presse reported.

Putin expressed his pleasure at meeting Nicholson, Sean Penn and TV action series star Peta Wilson, saying he was particularly fond of Nicholson’s films.

"I most like ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’" Putin was quoted by AFP as saying.

He added that Russians probably knew Nicholson best from "Batman", where he played the villain.

Nicholson replied that he was impressed by the beauty of Moscow and praised the organizers of the 23rd Moscow International Film Festival where his movie "The Pledge" was screened.

AFP said that Wilson, who plays a secret service agent in the popular "La Femme Nikita" series, joked that she wished to join Putin’s personal security service.

Putin, who said he liked the series, quipped that she could have a post as a junior official.