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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Ukrainian Mine Blast

KIEV (AP) — At least 33 miners were killed Sunday in an underground methane gas and coal dust explosion in eastern Ukraine, and 22 workers remained missing, officials said.

The morning blast at the Zasiadko mine in the coal-rich Donetsk region was the largest coal industry accident this year. The regional Work Safety Department said more than 250 miners were working underground at the time of the explosion.

Some 155 miners were safely brought to the surface, including six who were hospitalized with burns. Four of the hospitalized workers were in grave condition, the department said. It said the fate of at least 22 miners remained unknown.

It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion at the mine.

Britain Jails 4

LONDON (Reuters) — A gang of Russians convicted of twice kidnapping a Russian businessman in London, on one occasion chaining him to a toilet and beating him, have been jailed by a British court.

Vladislan Agafonov, 30, Alex Spodin, 32, and Artur Sarkisin, 32, were each sentenced to 10 years in jail late last week for kidnapping the unnamed businessman from his home in Essex, east of London, in August 1998 and again in January 2001, police said. Another defendant, Alexander Ivanov, 31, was given seven years.

The kidnappers believed the victim owed their associates money from a business deal and demanded up to $1 million, police said.

Police said the victim had been chained to a toilet bowl and beaten with a wooden mallet. He was rescued by armed police who had been tipped off, they added.

In August 1998, he had been taken hostage in similar circumstances, but released five days later when he promised to pay the gang money, police said.

Pilots Suspended

MOSCOW (AP) — About 80 pilots and other flight crew have been suspended and more than 20 aircraft have been banned from further service after official checks of aviation safety standards in Krasnoyarsk, officials said.

The checks revealed that many pilots had failed to undergo mandatory semiannual retraining, said Viktor Osipov, the region’s top civil aviation official.

Osipov told Itar-Tass that some crews also had undergone fictitious training while they were in fact performing regular flights as airlines tried to save money on the training programs.

More than 20 aircraft in the region also have been deemed no longer airworthy and must be written off, Osipov said.

Georgia Sentences 13

TBILISI, Georgia (Reuters) — Georgia’s supreme court convicted 13 people Friday, including a former finance minister, for a 1998 grenade attack on President Eduard Shevardnadze’s motorcade that killed two bodyguards.

Guram Absandze, finance minister under Shevardnadze’s predecessor, nationalist President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, received a 17-year jail sentence as one of the organizers of the assassination attempt.

One man was sentenced to 20 years and another 19. Three defendants were sentenced to time already served in detention, and the others were given sentences ranging from three to 14 years.

Probe Extended

OTTAWA (AP) — Russian police have extended their investigation of a diplomat involved in a fatal car accident in Ottawa in January.

On Thursday, a Canadian Foreign Affairs spokesman said Russia informed Ottawa that the investigation into Andrei Knyazev would conclude Nov. 15.

Catherine MacLean, an Ottawa lawyer was killed and her friend Catherine Dore seriously injured when a car driven by Knyazev hit them as they walked MacLean’s dog on a city sidewalk.

Alcohol Deaths Up

MOSCOW (AP) — Nearly 17,000 people in Russia died of alcohol poisoning in the first five months of this year, an increase of about 30 percent from the same period the previous year, Interfax reported.

The report cited figures given by First Deputy Health Minister Gennady Onishchenko. According to the report, the number of alcohol-poisoning deaths in January to May was 16,853, about 4,000 more than in the same period of 2000.

Fresh Defense Talks

WASHINGTON (AP) — Undersecretary of State John Bolton flew to Moscow on Friday in a U.S. drive for a deal combining U.S. missile defense with cuts in American and Russian nuclear weapons arsenals.

Bolton is scheduled to meet with Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov on Monday.

Texas Smuggling

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Two Russians, a University of Texas research assistant and his wife, were charged Friday with luring young women from Uzbekistan with promises of lucrative modeling jobs, then forcing them to work seven days a week in strip clubs and pocketing all their earnings.

The U.S. Justice Department said 40-year-old Sardar Gasanov and his wife, Nadira Gasanov, 37, were arrested at their home in El Paso and indicted on charges of conspiracy, money laundering and alien smuggling for profit.

The couple allegedly obtained visas for the women by claiming they were scientists traveling to do research at the University of Texas.

If convicted, the couple face up to 36 years in federal prison.

Sharon Calls Putin

MOSCOW (Reuters) — President Vladimir Putin told Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a telephone call that Israel and the Palestinians needed to resume peace talks to prevent more bloodshed in the Middle East.

The Kremlin press service said Sharon had told Putin that the Israeli government intended to restrict its response to extremist acts to the "necessary minimum."

Sharon, who is due to visit Moscow on Sept. 3 to 5, placed the call Friday to Putin, the Kremlin said.

Storms Hinder Kursk

MOSCOW (AP) — Storms on the Barents Sea have halted work by an international diving crew on preparing the sunken Kursk nuclear submarine to be raised to the surface next month, the navy said Sunday.

It was unclear how much the storms would disrupt the lifting plans.