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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Iran Nuclear Aid

WASHINGTON (Reuters) ? Russian companies continue to help Iran develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, in some cases by allowing Russian scientists to go to Iran, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.

"We still see evidence that Russian enterprises are helping Iran develop the expertise to produce WMD [weapons of mass destruction]," said the official, who asked not to be named.

Asked what category of weapons he was talking about, he said Russian assistance covered all three. "But maybe nuclear tops the list."

The official said he did not think any new U.S. sanctions were under consideration. He also said the United States believes the Russian government is aware of the assistance to Iran, but he did not say the government approved of it.

"We think that the Russians need to confront this contradiction in their own policy. On the one hand they say that they are against proliferation ? but the continuing pattern of activity can?t be unknown to the Russian special services," he said.

Hijacking Trial

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (Reuters) ? Saudi Arabia, ignoring a Russian extradition request, has begun trying two Chechen men for hijacking a Russian airliner and forcing it to land in Medina earlier this year, a Saudi official was quoted as saying Wednesday.

The head of the Saudi judiciary told the Arabic-language Okaz newspaper that the two Chechen teenagers being tried under the country?s strict Islamic Sharia law had no legal representation.

Russia has formally requested the extradition of the men who seized the plane, with more than 160 passengers and crew, during a flight in March from Istanbul to Moscow.

One other hijacker, a flight attendant and a passenger were killed when Saudi commandos stormed the aircraft to free the hostages.

Estonia Church Deal

TALLINN, Estonia (Reuters) ? Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar said Wednesday the country had moved a step closer to resolving a long-standing row with the Russian Orthodox Church over its registeration.

Over half a decade ago, the church wanted to register as the Estonian Orthodox Church, a name rejected by authorities as too close to another religion registered in the early 1990s.

A statement from Laar?s office said he agreed with an offer from Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II that the registration should go ahead as the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchy.

Butyrka Jailbreak

MOSCOW (AP) ? Three inmates awaiting transfer to prison escaped Wednesday from Moscow?s high-security Butyrka jail, prison officials said.

The three had been sentenced to life in prison for murder and assault. They tunneled through the floor of their cell and escaped through the basement, Itar-Tass reported.

Ilya Kolubelov, a spokesman for Moscow?s prisons directorate, confirmed that the inmates were missing, but refused to give further details.

Emergency Landing

MOSCOW (AP) ? A Tu-154 airliner belonging to Uzbekistan?s Khavo Yulari airline made an emergency landing early Wednesday in the Urals region after its landing gear failed to retract following takeoff, emergency officials said.

The plane was carrying 106 passengers and 10 crew members from Ufa to Tashkent. It circled above the city to burn off fuel before attempting the landing at Ufa?s airport, said Rashid Khabibulin, a duty officer at the local Emergency Situations Ministry branch.

The plane broke a wing when it touched down, but none of the people aboard were hurt, he said.

Asylum Seeker Dies

MOSCOW (MT) ? Angolan asylum seeker Massa Mayoni, the victim of a savage racist attack last month, died of injuries in Botkin hospital Wednesday, a statement from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said.

The 34-year-old father of one suffered severe head injuries after being attacked by a group of teenagers armed with baseball bats Aug. 23 outside a refugee center in northeast Moscow. He never regained consciousness.

UNHCR representative John McCallin expressed his agency?s concern and called for action from police and government authorities to halt the rising number of racist attacks.

For the Record

At least 10 servicemen in Chechnya were killed Wednesday in a series of skirmishes and mine explosions prompting troops to tighten security around the republic and launch sweeps for militants in several villages, said an official with the pro-Moscow Chechen administration.(AP)

King Juan Carlos of Spain capped his one-day private visit to Moscow on Wednesday with an informal lunch with President Vladimir Putin at which the development of relations between Russia and the European Union was discussed.(AP)

Oksana Sklyarov, the wife of computer programmer Dmitry Sklyarov who is charged with U.S. copyright violations, flew with her two small children from Moscow to San Francisco on Wednesday to visit her husband while his case goes through California courts. (AP)

The Federal Security Service said Wednesday it had thwarted a spy ring trying to steal military secrets for an unnamed country in the "Asia-Pacific region," Interfax reported. The local FSB in Krasnoyarsk said the ring had been foiled "during the preparation phase" and no criminal charges were filed. (Reuters)

Two Russian peacekeepers and one Kosovo Albanian were shot and injured outside a nightclub in Pristina early Tuesday, a spokesman for the NATO-led peacekeeping force said. Russian military police were investigating the case, he said.(Reuters)