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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Protest Over Hostages

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Hundreds of armed residents of a restive region in Georgia on Wednesday surrounded a district populated largely by ethnic Chechens to demand the release of hostages believed to be held there.

The move marked the latest build-up of a tit-for-tat kidnapping crisis, which began last week with the abduction of a government security officer, 31-year-old Mamuka Arabuli, from his village in the Pankisi Gorge.

His relatives and fellow villagers blamed members of the Kistin minority, the Georgian Chechens, for the abduction, and grabbed seven Kistins off a public bus in retaliation.

Arabuli and 79-year-old David Badzherashvili, who had been abducted a month ago, have been freed. One of the Kistins has also been released.

But on Wednesday, hundreds of Arabuli’s supporters, armed with hunting rifles, handguns and automatic rifles, gathered around the Pankisi Gorge, demanding that Kistins living there release all other hostages believed to be held there. The militia is led by Arabuli’s father-in-law, Luka Ramazashvili.

"They control all roads leading to the villages of the [Pankisi] gorge," said the chief of the local criminal police department, Lieutenant Colonel Temuri Arabuli.

Train Slams Into Car

MOSCOW (AP) — A passenger train slammed into a car in the Irkutsk region, killing all five people inside the vehicle, officials said Wednesday.

The crash occurred Tuesday evening near the Chuna Station and involved a train traveling from Moscow to Lena, said Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman Marina Ryklina.

She said the small car, a Zhiguli, was passing through an unguarded railway crossing at the time of the accident.

Pristavkin on Crime

MOSCOW (Reuters) — A moratorium on the death penalty imposed despite strong public opposition has not triggered a rise in crime, Anatoly Pristavkin, head of the Presidential Pardons Commission, was quoted as saying Wednesday.

Pristavkin said in an interview with the government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta that figures for murders committed in Russia since the imposition of the moratorium have remained stable at about 30,000 per year.

"Though we should not be pleased at any such statistic, it is clear that there has been no deterioration," he said. "The dynamics have remained the same."

Kursk Cleanup

MOSCOW (Reuters) — The task of clearing debris from the wreck of the Kursk nuclear submarine was to be completed Wednesday, the navy said.

The Kursk sank in the Barents Sea last August with the loss of all 118 crew.

"Work on clearing the debris from the vessel will be completed this afternoon as planned," a spokesman for Vice Admiral Mikhail Motsak, who is coordinating the recovery operation, said from aboard the warship Severomorsk.

An international salvage team aboard the high-tech dive support ship Mayo conducted the cleanup operation using robots controlled from the deck.

The support ship was to leave for the Norwegian port of Kirkenes later Wednesday to swap cleaning equipment for cutting gear, the navy spokesman said.

The next stage will be to cut holes for a series of cables, which will be used to hoist the main body of the vessel. The bow, where the submarine’s torpedoes were stored, will be cut off and left for now on the seabed.

No Vandalism Proof

MOSCOW (MT) — A special commission has found no evidence to support allegations that federal troops vandalized and desecrated a historic museum reserve in the Dzheirakhsky district of Ingushetia last week, Interfax reported Wednesday.

The commission, which included members of the government of the tiny southern republic, visited the reserve before making their conclusions, Interfax said.

Ingush President Ruslan Aushev said last week that a wall of a 12-century fortress tower had been destroyed and a 9th-century Christian temple had been damaged during a training exercise by the 58th army.

Ministry Official Dies

MOSCOW (MT) — A Foreign Ministry official has been found dead in his apartment after apparently bleeding to death in a household accident, police said Wednesday.

Vladimir Vasilyev, 55, deputy director of the ministry’s special communications department, died after cutting his right hand on a broken sink in his apartment in the Izmailovo district in northeastern Moscow, police said. It was not clear why the sink was broken.

"He tried to stop the bleeding but did so incorrectly," said Roman Terekhov, the police officer in charge of an investigation into the death.

Terekhov suggested Vasilyev may not have been sober at the time of the accident, saying a half-empty bottle of vodka was found on the kitchen table.

Foul play was not suspected.

Police found the body Tuesday afternoon. They estimate Vasilyev, who lived alone, had been dead for two or three days.

Vasilyev’s boss, Vladimir Ashurkov, refused to comment on the death.

Bomb Blast Probe

MOSCOW (AP) — Investigators were checking a possible Chechen connection in a bomb explosion in Stavropol that injured four people including a 4-year-old boy, officials said Wednesday.

The bomb, which witnesses described as an explosives-stuffed plastic bottle thrown out from a passing Mercedes car, went off Tuesday near a bus stop. The injured included the boy, Pavel Moiseyev, and his mother Galina, 25.

"The patients’ condition is relatively satisfactory. They received medical help in time," Antonina Barzina, a Stavropol hospital official, told RTR television.

Regional prosecutor Robert Adelkhanian said investigators "were checking all the versions, including the connection between this crime and the current trial in Stavropol against terrorists linked to the Moscow explosions."