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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Sergeyev Blasts Test

MOSCOW (AP) — President Vladimir Putin’s military adviser Igor Sergeyev warned Thursday that Russia would view the start of construction of a U.S. missile defense test facility in Alaska as a violation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, but held out hope that a compromise could be found.

"The beginning of construction of the test range … will signal the violation of the ABM Treaty," Sergeyev said at a news conference, adding that Moscow hopes that Washington would give notice of its intention to withdraw from the treaty before it starts construction.

U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said last week that a number of missile test activities, including the start of construction of a test facility in April 2002, would raise questions about compliance with the ABM treaty, which bans large-scale missile defenses.

Other officials said the Pentagon plans to build missile interceptor silos for test launches at Fort Greely and Kodiak Island in Alaska.

Sergeyev, who served as defense minister until April, said that Russia still hopes to reach a compromise with the United States on the ABM. He wouldn’t say how Russia would respond to the U.S. moves if no deal is reached.

6 Hostages Freed

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Six people who had been seized by residents of a restive Georgian region have been released, a Georgian police official said Thursday.

The six hostages, who were released late Wednesday, are ethnic Chechens from the Pankisi Gorge region in northern Georgia. Last week, a government security officer was kidnapped in the region, and residents blamed the seizure on the ethnic Chechens, who are called Kistins.

In retaliation, seven Kistins were seized from a public bus — the six who were released Wednesday night and another who was released earlier.

Five to 10 people are believed to remain captive in the Pankisi Gorge, including two Spanish businessmen who were seized in November outside Tbilisi.

The situation in the region remained tense Thursday despite the releases.

"They’re waiting for an answer in kind from the Kistins," said Temur Arabuli, head of the criminal police in the region.

Pope to Baku?

BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Pope John Paul II may visit Azerbaijan in May 2002, a Foreign Ministry official said Thursday.

Metim Mirza, deputy head of the ministry’s press department, said that preparatory work for the trip was already under way in the Caucasus Mountains country, where most citizens are Moslems.

Last month, the pontiff traveled to Ukraine over the vehement objections of the Russian Orthodox Church. Most Ukrainians are Orthodox Christians, and the Moscow church accuses Catholics of aggressive proselytizing and stoking conflicts with Orthodox believers in Ukraine.

John Paul has traveled previously to Azerbaijan’s Caucasus neighbor, Georgia, and he is scheduled to visit Armenia and Kazakhstan in September.

Ukraine Press Fears

KIEV (AP) — The media freedom group Reporters Without Borders appealed to President Leonid Kuchma on Thursday to take measures to prevent violence against journalists in Ukraine.

"Not only violence against the press, but also the general impunity of such actions, is the awful day-to-day reality of modern Ukraine, which is a member of the Council of Europe," the Paris-based group said in an open letter to Kuchma, according to Interfax.

Reporters Without Borders said it was concerned about fatal and injurious attacks on three media representatives in Ukraine during one week in July.

On July 3, TOR television company director Igor Alexandrov was killed by assailants wielding bats at the entrance to his office in the eastern town of Slaviansk. On the same day, Oleg Breus, founder of the newspaper 20th Century, was shot while entering his office in the city of Luhansk.

However, a spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry’s branch in Luhansk said Breus was not a journalist, but a businessman, and his killing was linked not to the newspaper, but to activities in the city’s markets.

Oleg Velichko, head of the Avers media corporation, is recovering in a hospital after being badly beaten in the western city of Lutsk on July 11.

Space Tourist Hunt

ST. HUBERT, Quebec (AP) — The head of the Russian Space and Aviation Agency said that more tourists will visit the International Space Station to help finance Russia’s space program.

Yury Koptev said his agency has received requests from several people interested in becoming nonprofessional cosmonauts. California millionaire Dennis Tito visited the space station in April aboard a Russian rocket, paying up to $20 million for the trip.

"There are a lot of people who want to go," Koptev said at Canadian Space Agency headquarters in St. Hubert, Quebec, where the heads of the five major agencies involved in the space station met to review the project.

Koptev said the money from space visitors would be crucial for the Russian program, but that future visits would happen only after construction of the space station is completed in 2006.

Former U.S. astronaut Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, the second man on the moon, recently made similar comments about selling unused space shuttle seats to tourists to help raise money for space programs.

Aldrin said NASA was hostile to the idea of space tourism, and he encouraged the U.S. Congress to intervene to encourage space flights for ordinary citizens.

Tito, the chief executive officer of Wilshire Associates Inc., a California investment firm, negotiated directly with the Russians to fly into space. The Russians arranged the trip without consulting the other nations involved in the International Space Station.