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

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Siberian Market Blast

MOSCOW (Reuters) — A blast in an outdoor market in central Siberia injured six people Thursday, three of them seriously, the Emergency Situations Ministry said.

A ministry spokeswoman said the explosion went off when a woman shopper in the city of Tomsk found a plastic bag between market stalls and tried to find out who owned it.

Three people were taken to the hospital and three treated at the site of the blast, the spokeswoman said without elaborating on what might have caused the explosion. Television reports put the force of the blast at 200 grams of TNT.

Ekho Moskvy radio reported that police suspect the blast was linked to a business dispute.

Ivanov on Rights

HAMBURG, Germany (Reuters) — Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Thursday that the treatment of ethnic Russians living in some of theBaltic States remains unsatisfactory.

"Provision of equal rights and freedom for all individuals in the Baltic region remains a most important direction of our efforts," he told a meeting of foreign ministers from the Baltic Sea region in the north German city of Hamburg. "Unfortunately, I have to state that the pace of improvement of the human rights situation in some countries of the region remains low."

Russians traveling with Ivanov suggested he was referring to Latvia and Estonia, which Moscow has often said do not honor the rights of ethnic Russians living there.

The two countries, angry after half a century of Soviet occupation and worried by the presence of big Russian-speaking minorities, have only given citizenship to those who lived in the countries before 1940, the year they were annexed. This excludes most Russian speakers, who arrived in the postwar Soviet period.

The third Baltic nation, Lithuania, gave everyone citizenship and enjoys better relations with Moscow.

Chechen Controls

MOSCOW (AP) — The government is considering putting district and village military commanders in Chechnya under the partial control of local authorities in the province’s Kremlin-appointed civilian administration, Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov said Thursday.

Local officials familiar with affairs on the village level could direct the military to avoid heavy-handed tactics that alienate the population, Ilyasov said Thursday.

He said the move would "eliminate 50 percent" of the problems between the civilian population and the army, in particular by reducing the number of arrests during troops’ house-to-house searches for rebels.

Ilyasov, speaking at a news conference in Moscow, said the military, local administrators and Islamic religious authorities should confer before arrests.

Human rights groups say at least dozens of people arrested in Chechnya by the Russian military have later been found dead in mass graves.

Belarus Vote Set

MINSK, Belarus (Reuters) — The Belarussian parliament on Thursday set Sept. 9 as the date for an eagerly awaited presidential election.

Incumbent Alexander Luk-ashenko, criticized by European states for his record on democracy and human rights, is expected to contest the poll.

Earlier this year Lukashenko, a former collective farm manager, said anyone seeking to unseat him in the poll would replace his "iron" rule with anarchy.

Radio Mast Collapses

MOSCOW (AP) — A 200-meter radio mast supporting an antenna that beamed to much of eastern Siberia collapsed near a dormitory and local administrative building, Itar-Tass reported.

No injuries or major damages were reported in the accident Wednesday in the city of Angarsk in the Irkutsk region.

Investigators said the 63-year-old mast apparently collapsed because the cables supporting it had snapped from deterioration, the report said.

Gangs in Finland

HELSINKI, Finland (Reuters) — Russians and Estonians have a strong grip on drug trafficking in Finland, where the number of foreigners in criminal gangs grew sharply last year, Finnish police said.

Since the end of the 1990s, violent gangs originating in the Baltic States have strengthened their position in Finland, the National Bureau of Investigation annonced this week.

"It is especially worrying … that Baltic citizens, especially the leading Estonian and ethnic Russian Estonian criminal leaders, have taken a leading position in the Finnish drug trade markets," it said.

Finland has a 1,300-kilometer border with Russia, and the capital, Helsinki, lies just 70 kilometers north of the Estonian capital, Tallinn, across the Gulf of Finland.

The bureau said smuggling was now more large-scale and flagrant than before, and Estonian criminals not only smuggled drugs into Finland but were also in charge of distributing them on the streets.

"There is more ecstasy, amphetamines and white heroin on the Finnish markets than ever before; it has never been easier to get drugs, and their prices have slumped," the bureau said.

The police said the share of foreigners in organized crime has jumped to 10 percent in 2000 from 3 percent in 1999.

Beatrix Visits Nizhny

MOSCOW (MT) — Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands laid a wreath at a World War II monument in Nizhny Novgorod and went sailing on the Volga River on Thursday, the third of a four-day state visit to Russia.

Beatrix, accompanied by Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, arrived in Nizhny Novgorod on Thursday and was greeted at the airport by Sergei Kiriyenko, the presidential envoy to the region, and Nizhny Novgorod Governor Ivan Sklyarov, Itar-Tass reported.

She attended a presentation of joint Russian-Dutch projects in the region, including the destruction of a chemical weapons arsenal that the Dutch government is partially funding. Later, she had an outing on the Volga River on a cruise boat.

On Friday, Beatrix is scheduled to wind up her stay in Russia with a visit to St. Petersburg.