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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Foreign Policy Praised

BERLIN (Reuters) German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping said Thursday that Russias foreign policy had grown more stable since Vladimir Putin took over as president from Boris Yeltsin.

"Without any doubt, after Putins election Russian foreign and security policy is more accountable, more predictable, more reliable than it was before," Scharping told Reuters in a joint interview with the Los Angeles Times.

German Foreign Ministry officials say that in his last years in office, Yeltsin was often unfocused and lacked his earlier vitality in diplomatic meetings. Because of frequent illness, Yeltsin rarely appeared in his office during in his final years in power and made few foreign trips.

"My opinion is that Russia is developing a clear political agenda with clear political priorities, and that can be influenced by our activities, by our political approaches and objectives," Scharping said.

Envoy Urges Restraint

BEIRUT, Lebanon (Reuters) Russias Middle East envoy Andrei Vdovin on Thursday urged restraint following a flare-up of violence between Israel, Syria and Lebanons Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

"What is happening now between Israel, Syria and Lebanon is a serious escalation," he told reporters after meeting Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud. "We have to exert all efforts to overcome the possible military escalation which will only harm the peace process."

He was referring to Saturdays attacks by Israeli jets on a Syrian radar post in eastern Lebanon, which followed a Hezbollah missile attack on Israeli troops in the disputed Shebaa Farms border zone. Hezbollah, backed by Syria and Iran, retaliated by firing on an Israeli radar post in the Shebaa Farms.

Vdovin, who arrived earlier Thursday, will meet with Lebanons president, prime minister and parliament speaker to discuss developments after Israels air raid on Lebanon and exchange of fire with Hezbollah across the border.

Spy Drive Detailed

LONDON (AP) As World War I engulfed Europe and revolution stirred in Russia, British spies urgently tried to supply the Russian government with information that could stop the Bolsheviks rise to power.

Declassified documents from Britains MI5 spy agency, released Thursday by the Public Record Office, show an agency worried that the Russian government had grown too weak to stop the revolutionary movement led by Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky.

Britain feared correctly that Russia would pull out of the war against Germany if the Bolsheviks took power.

"Until such men as Trotsky are finally convicted, anti-war agitation will be carried on in the factories of Petrograd [St. Petersburg], Moscow and other large centers and Leninite doctrines will continue to be promulgated among the simple-minded peasantry," warned a document written shortly before the 1917 October Revolution.

Among the declassified documents compiled by British spies were papers tracking the movements of Trotsky during his years in exile in Western Europe, and extracts from his intercepted letters.

"It is impossible to overestimate the necessity of supplying the pro-war parties in Russia with every available detail of information regarding these mens doings in England, France and America both during and before the war," the document said. "This question is no less important for England than it is for Russia since it directly concerns the war."

MI5 already had intercepted Trotskys mail including a 1916 letter in which he complained of being spied on in France.

But Britains spy chiefs ultimately allowed Trotsky to slip through their net. In April 1917, a ship carrying the Russian revolutionary to Russia from the United States docked in the Canadian port of Halifax. Trotsky was interned in a British prisoner-of-war camp and then ordered released.

Trotsky returned to Russia and helped lead the Bolsheviks to victory.

Jiang Set to Visit

BEIJING (Reuters) Chinese President Jiang Zemin will pay an official visit to Moscow for a summit with President Vladimir Putin this month, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Thursday.

Jiang will also visit Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova and Malta during his trip, which will last from July 15-25, spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said at a news conference.

The meeting between Jiang and Putin will be the second of three planned for this year.

Mi-2 Crash Injures 4

MOSCOW (AP) Four foreigners were injured when a helicopter tipped over as it attempted to take off from an airport near Murmansk, emergency officials said Thursday.

The Mi-2 helicopter was lifting off from an airport near the town of Varzino on Wednesday when a gust of wind tipped it over, said Maria Ordynskaya, a spokeswoman for the Emergency Situations Ministry.

Four foreigners who were among the eight people aboard were injured in the accident, she said. Itar-Tass reported that two Britons, a Finn and a Swiss citizen were injured.

Itar-Tass said the regional branch of the Federal Security Service was investigating.

Tomato Hurler Jailed

MINSK, Belarus (Reuters) A 47-year-old unemployed man who lobbed a tomato at Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko has been jailed for seven days for hooliganism, Belarussian state radio reported Thursday.

"I had my reasons," the report quoted the unidentified Minsk resident as saying as he appeared in court.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said the man could have been detained for up to 15 days.

Lukashenko was hit by the tomato during festivities to celebrate Independence Day on Tuesday.