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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Chechens Block Rail

VLADIKAVKAZ, Southern Russia (AP) Ч A group of Chechen civilians blocked the railroad between ChechnyaТs two largest cities for 14 hours to demand the release of a neighbor arrested by federal troops, officials said Saturday.

About 40 people blocked the tracks in the town of Argun, between Grozny and Gudermes, where the Moscow-backed Chechen civilian administration has its headquarters, Interfax quoted Grozny administration officials as saying.

The protesters, residents of Argun, dispersed after long talks with the head of the Grozny administration, prosecutors and other officials, the report said. It gave no details about the arrested man.

Rostotsky Dead at 79

MOSCOW (AP) Ч Stanislav Rostotsky, a director whose films depicted Soviet life from World War II to the reforms of perestroika, has died at age 79, the day before the opening of a film festival in northwest Russia that he helped organize.

Rostotsky died of heart failure late Friday night, Interfax and Itar-Tass reported Saturday. He was in the city of Vyborg near St. Petersburg for SaturdayТs opening of the annual Window on Europe film festival, where he was to serve as a judge, the reports said.

Rostotsky was wounded in western Russia while fighting for the Red Army against the Nazis in World War II. After the war he studied at the State Cinematography Institute in Moscow under renowned director Sergei Eisenstein.

One of his most enduring films was the 1972 "Dawns Here Are Quiet," about an all-female regiment in World War II.

He is survived by wife Nina Menshikova, an actress, and son Andrei, also an actor.

Soldiers Punished

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) Ч The Estonian defense force has discharged six soldiers and punished 21 others for violating public order in a largely Russian-speaking community, the Baltic News Service reported.

Several local residents in the town of Paldiski, a former Soviet naval base with a predominantly Russian-speaking population, reportedly were intimidated and roughed up by a group of drunken soldiers on July 24.

The soldiers were seeking revenge after some of their colleagues had allegedly been robbed and beaten up in the town, BNS said.

Putin to Finland

MOSCOW (Reuters) Ч President Vladimir Putin will pay a two-day official visit to Helsinki in early September, his press service said.

A spokeswoman for the presidential press service said Friday that Putin would hold talks with President Tarja Halonen during the Sept. 2-3 visit. He is also due to meet Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen.

Germany Visit

BERLIN (Reuters) Ч President Vladimir Putin will make a state visit to Germany from Sept. 25 to 27, a German government spokesman said Saturday. The spokesman could give no further details of the trip, although the German government has previously said Putin and Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der and their wives might visit Dresden.

Suspects Charged

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) Ч Police have charged two suspects in the shooting death earlier this year of publisher Vitaly Haitov, who was the owner of EstoniaТs largest Russian-language daily, police said.

One suspect was charged with murder Thursday and the other as an accessory to murder Friday, police spokesman Indrek Raudjalg said. He declined to give their names but said both were 33-year-old Lithuanian citizens who recently lived in Moscow.

If convicted, they both face a maximum of life in prison.

Haitov, 57, was shot twice in the head from close range while sitting in his jeep outside his Tallinn home on March 10.

Belarus Search

MINSK, Belarus (AP) Ч Police have seized computers from the offices of an opposition candidate in this fallТs Belarussian presidential election, in what his aides called a government attempt to derail the campaign.

On Friday, officers in the city of Grodno searched the offices of Semyon DomashТs local campaign headquarters and of a public association that he heads, said the politicianТs spokesman Alexei Shein.

No explanation was provided.

Domash is one of only three remaining challengers in the Sept. 9 presidential election.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department on Friday criticized Belarus for not inviting European observers to monitor the presidential election.

Russia: No Asylum

MOSCOW (AP) Ч The Foreign Ministry denied Saturday that two former officers who had served in Chechnya illegally crossed into Hungary and asked for political asylum.

The ministry said in a statement that the Hungarian Foreign Ministry had officially informed the Russian Embassy in Budapest that the men in question were not Russian citizens or Russian servicemen.

Two men were caught by Hungarian border guards after illegally crossing into Hungary last month. When asked to identify themselves, they presented Russian military IDs.

Kim Visits Metro

MOSCOW (Reuters) Ч North Korean leader Kim Jong-il Ч still chugging across Russia more than two weeks after his unconventional visit began Ч kept his hosts on their toes on Saturday with an unplanned visit to a Novosibirsk metro station.

Kim stopped off in Novosibirsk for a daylong tour about half-way through the return leg of a nearly 20,000-kilometer rail journey across Russia and back again.

On Saturday, he visited the Siberian State Railroad Institute near Novosibirsk before cruising through the city to the Chkalov aviation plant. But along the way he stopped his motorcade for an unscheduled look at an underground metro station.

"On arrival Е Kim Jong-il greeted in Russian the passengers, who were at first visibly taken aback by the unexpected encounter but then hailed him back with loud shouts of СHooray,Т" RIA reported.