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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Kursk Recovery

MOSCOW (AP) ? Divers on Sunday cleared debris from holes cut in the hull of the sunken nuclear submarine Kursk in preparation for lifting the vessel from the sea floor.

Divers fully cleared eight of 10 holes on the fourth section of the submarine, Itar-Tass reported. The remaining two holes on the section were expected to be finished by late Sunday or early Monday.

A total of 26 holes have been pierced into the Kursk, to which steel cables will be attached to raise the rest of the submarine, a navy statement said Saturday. Clearing the holes was necessary to remove any items and mechanisms that could impede installation of the cables.

Sunday?s operation was conducted from the salvage vessel Mayo, which replaced the barge that conducted the operation to sever the submarine?s bow.

Putin in Armenia

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) ? President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that Russia could act as a guarantor of a peace deal for the disputed Nagorny Karabakh enclave, but insisted that Moscow was not meddling in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

"Russia could act as a guarantor of agreements" on the settlement, Putin said during a visit to Armenia?s capital Yerevan, according to news agencies. But he added, "It?s your problem, and Armenia and Azerbaijan should work out the status of Nagorny Karabakh."

Putin also pledged to continue protecting Armenia?s borders and agreed with his Armenian counterpart to boost trade and investment guarantees. Putin and Armenian President Robert Kocharyan signed six agreements after talks ? on long-term economic cooperation, investment protections, tourism and other spheres.

ISS Module Lifts Off

MOSCOW (AP) ? A Soyuz rocket blasted off Saturday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying a new, three-berth docking port to the international space station after a last-minute repair of the booster?s control system on the launch pad.

The rocket lifted off on schedule at 3:35 a.m. Moscow time Saturday, and its flight into orbit was monitored at Mission Control outside Moscow.

The rocket was carrying the Progress M-CO1 cargo ship with the Pirs, or Pier, docking port attached to it instead of the regular fuel tank and cargo section, said Mission Control spokesman Valery Lyndin. It was scheduled to dock with the orbiting station at 5:05 a.m. Moscow time Monday.

Judd in Chechnya

NAZRAN, Ingushetia (AP) ? As aviation and artillery pounded the south of breakaway Chechnya on Friday, a European official said Moscow was beginning to realize the need to enter into talks with the rebels there.

There are people in the Russian administration "who are convinced of the need for a political solution," Lord Judd, head of a delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said during a visit to Moscow, Interfax reported.

Last week, President Vladimir Putin said Moscow was ready to negotiate with any of the separatist leaders in the region. But that offer was accompanied by strict conditions that the rebels disarm, surrender their most-wanted suspects to Moscow and accept federal rule ? conditions that would be very difficult for the rebels to accept.

Meanwhile, eight servicemen were killed over the past 24 hours in Chechnya, an official in the region?s Kremlin-appointed administration said.

Exxon Halts Surveys

MOSCOW (AP) ? Oil giant Exxon, criticized by environmentalists for seismic surveys that allegedly pushed endangered whales from their feeding grounds, said Friday it halted the tests and followed strict standards to protect the animals.

The four weeks of tests off Sakhalin in the Far East were completed last weekend, said Glenn Waller, director of external affairs for Exxon Mobil in Moscow. He said the survey ship was accompanied by two others for monitoring, as well as overflights, and the work was observed by Russian and foreign scientists and government officials.

The company "implemented the most stringent mitigation measures ever undertaken by the industry in a major seismic survey to be protective of the unique population of gray whales," Waller said. The World Wildlife Fund had demanded a halt to tests, and said Friday that nothing prevented Exxon from resuming and possibly causing further harm to the western Pacific gray whales.

Gongadze March

KIEV (Reuters) ? Thousands of people marched through Kiev on Saturday in memory of Georgy Gongadze, the journalist whose murder sparked Ukraine?s biggest political crisis.

Some 3,000 opposition activists joined the peaceful demonstration to mourn Gongadze, an Internet reporter critical of President Leonid Kuchma. Gongadze disappeared a year ago and his headless corpse was discovered in November.

Chanting "Kuchma out!" and carrying blue and yellow national flags and banners with the slogan "Impeach Kuchma!," the protesters gathered on the capital?s main street to hear tributes to Gongadze from leading opposition politicians. A plaque bearing the names of 18 journalists killed during the 10 years of Ukraine?s independence from the former Soviet Union was unveiled at the Union of Journalists? office. The march marked the first major revival of the campaign to topple the president.

For the Record

Two people were killed and one was injured Sunday when several shells dating back to World War II exploded in the Novgorod region by the side of the highway linking Moscow with St. Petersburg, RIA news agency said. (Reuters)

A deadly batch of bootleg booze has claimed 56 lives in southwestern Estonia over the past week, police said Sunday. A police spokeswoman said 66 people were still being treated in hospitals for symptoms of poisoning from moonshine containing methyl alcohol. (Reuters)