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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Blast Kills 4

MOSCOW (AP) — Four workers were killed at an explosion at a closed defense plant in the Omsk region, emergency officials said Tuesday.

The explosion occurred Monday at the Konversiya-M plant near the town of Krutaya Gorka, said Viktor Verblyudov, a spokesman for the regional emergency department.

Two people were wounded, including one in serious condition, he said.

Preliminary information indicated that a spark from welding caused a canister of oxygen to explode, Verblyudov said, adding that a special commission was investigating.

It was unclear what the plant was producing. NTV television reported that the section of the factory where the explosion occurred was under the management of the Russian Aviation and Space Agency.

Novosibirsk Killing

MOSCOW (AP) — Igor Belyakov, the deputy mayor of Novosibirsk, was shot dead Tuesday in the second fatal attack on a municipal official in two weeks, police said.

Belyakov’s car came under fire as he was on his way to work from his country house, Interfax said.

Belyakov headed the city’s consumer market and land committee, said Olga Sedina, a spokeswoman for Novosibirsk City Hall.

According to NTV television, Belyakov had recently called for stricter control on trade in the city.

The shooting comes two weeks after Leonid Oblonsky, a Moscow city official involved in regulating trade and wholesale markets, was killed.

Defense Talks Start

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Senior U.S. and Russian defense officials on Tuesday opened two days of Pentagon talks on details of a controversial U.S. missile defense plan and prospects for closer security cooperation between the two countries.

A 10-member Russian delegation headed by General Yury Baluyevsky, first deputy chief of the military staff, met a team of U.S. officials headed by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, U.S. defense officials said.

Pentagon officials declined to discuss details of the talks. But U.S. experts were expected to provide the Russians with details of the U.S. research and testing program in areas ranging from "hit-to-kill" projectiles to destroy ballistic missiles in flight to a U.S. Air Force airborne laser weapon to burn up missiles shortly after they are fired.

Kim Back in Moscow

ST. PETERSBURG (Reuters) — North Korean leader Kim Jong-il wrapped up a visit to St. Petersburg on Tuesday and returned to Moscow in the armored train that has been his home for almost two weeks.

The reclusive leader went sightseeing before climbing into his special 21-carriage train for the first leg of his monumental trek back home to Pyongyang.

In the morning Kim visited Piskaryovskoye cemetery, site of mass graves for victims of the 900-day World War II siege of Leningrad, and a machinery factory.

He arrived at Leningradsky Station at about 8 p.m.

On Wednesday, he has a cultural program scheduled in Moscow before he sets off on his 10-day return journey for Pyongyang in the evening.

Scharping on NATO

ST. PETERSBURG (AP) — German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping on Tuesday sought to reassure Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov that NATO expansion is not aimed against Moscow.

"On the contrary, NATO is striving to deepen and consolidate cooperation with Russia," Scharping was quoted by Itar-Tass as saying after talks with Ivanov. "From my viewpoint, security can be ensured only by joint efforts."

Russia has vehemently objected to NATO’s eastward expansion, which began two years ago with the incorporation of former Warsaw Pact members Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Moscow has pushed for the 54-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe or some other umbrella group to take the lead in providing security in Europe instead of NATO.

On Tuesday, Ivanov reiterated Russia’s concerns.

"We cannot understand and explain to Russian society why after the end of the Cold War … one military bloc continues to expand eastward," he was quoted by Itar-Tass quoted as saying. "Russia feels that some states, including NATO members, seek to divide security into a number of kinds and sorts."

Sklyarov Released

SAN JOSE, California (Reuters) — Software programmer Dmitry Sklyarov, whose arrest last month on U.S. copyright charges sparked protests over free-speech rights in the Internet age, was released on $50,000 bail on Monday by a California court.

Moscow-based ElcomSoft Co. put up the cash bond for Sklyarov, 26, the author of a program that allows people to make and transfer copies of digital books using Adobe Systems’ eBook Reader.

He was freed into the custody of software programmer Sergei Osokine of nearby Cupertino, California, said defense attorney Joseph Burton. "Great result. It’s a first step. He’s out," Burton said.

Arraignment is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Aug. 23 pending the return of an indictment against him by a grand jury, Burton said.

Oil Slick Spotted

VLADIVOSTOK, Far East (AP) — An oil slick 25 kilometers long was spotted Tuesday off Sakhalin Island in the Far East, emergency officials said.

The oil slick is located 100 meters from the shore, near the mouth of the Tambovka River at the island’s southern end, a duty officer at the Sakhalin emergency department said. An emergency commission flew to the site to determine the cause, the officer said.