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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

New Air Chief Named

MOSCOW (AP) -- President Vladimir Putin named a new commander of the air force to replace its previous chief, who retired for reasons of age, the Kremlin said Tuesday.

Putin signed a decree appointing Colonel General Vladimir Mikhailov, 58, to succeed General Anatoly Kornukov, the presidential press service said. Kornukov retired earlier this month after turning 60, the age limit for military service.

Mikhailov served in the Soviet and then Russian air force after graduating from the air force academy in 1966. He has logged 6,000 flying hours on 28 types of planes, Itar-Tass reported. Mikhailov was named deputy air force chief in 1998.

Putin Pledges Funds

MOSCOW (AP) -- President Vladimir Putin promised Tuesday to find extra funds to support science, education, culture and medicine -- all areas that have suffered from cuts in state spending over the past decade.

Putin said it was too early to speak of any breakthrough in funding. "But we are again beginning to understand that knowledge and qualifications are very expensive," Putin said at a Kremlin awards ceremony, Interfax reported.

Putin spoke of the need to improve medical care. "We need an effective system of health care -- a system combining both wide accessibility and quality of services," he said.

Arms Conference

GENEVA (Reuters) -- Russia called on the United States on Tuesday to pursue negotiations on big strategic nuclear arms cuts and aim for a breakthrough in nuclear disarmament.

Leonid Skotnikov, Russia's ambassador to the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament, also repeated a call by Moscow for a moratorium on building a missile shield in outer space until both sides could agree on a new binding international pact to replace the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Reactor Shut Down

MOSCOW (AP) -- A reactor at a southern Russian nuclear plant was shut down automatically for unexplained reasons, state-run nuclear energy company Rosenergoatom said Tuesday.

The safety system of reactor No. 3 at the Novovoronezh power plant started up Monday evening, which automatically stopped output from the reactor, Rosenergoatom said. It said the incident was not serious, that no one had been hurt and that radiation levels were within the norm.

Official Killed

MAKHACHKALA, Dagestan (AP) -- A top city official and his wife were shot and killed Tuesday in the capital of Dagestan, police said.

Unidentified gunmen shot and killed Akhmed Aliyev, the first deputy mayor of Makhachkala, and his wife, said Zaira Abdurakhmanova, a spokeswoman for the Dagestani Interior Ministry. Police were at the scene of the killing and no other details, including possible motives, were available, she said.

Car Bomb

MOSCOW (AP) -- Two men were killed and a man and woman were wounded when a car blew up outside a sports hall in the Far North mining town of Vorkuta, police said Tuesday.

Anatoly Maler, chief of the Vorkuta criminal police department, said that the two dead men and the wounded man were members of a criminal gang, and he attributed the car bombing to a criminal settling of scores.

Composer's Remains

MOSCOW (AP) -- A group of Russian musicians wants composer Sergei Rachmaninov's remains brought to his native Russia from a New York cemetery before the lease on the grave site runs out in 2015.

Rachmaninov "loved Russia and always wanted to come home, so it would be logical to bring the remains of the composer and his family to their homeland," Viktor Merzhanov, a professor at the Moscow Conservatory and president of the Russian Rachmaninov Society, was quoted by Itar-Tass as saying.

He said the society wants the remains returned to the Rachmaninov family's former estate in the Tambov region from the Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York, where Rachmaninov was buried after his death in 1943 at age 69.

Merzhanov did not say whether he had discussed the proposal with the Rachmaninov family or the cemetery.

Pasko Pardon

VLADIVOSTOK, Far East (Reuters) -- Military journalist Grigory Pasko said Tuesday he was ready to agree to a presidential pardon.

But Pasko, sentenced to four years in jail for high treason, will not petition for a pardon himself, said Anatoly Pyshkin, his lawyer.

"Grigory has not appealed for a pardon and will not do so," Pyshkin said. "But if, for example, a public organization appealed, and the president issued a decree to pardon him, taking the decision to free him, that would be humane."

Estonia's New PM

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) -- The Estonian parliament on Tuesday approved the nomination of outgoing Finance Minister and center-right Reform Party leader Siim Kallas to be the new prime minister in this Western-oriented, ex-Soviet Baltic republic.

The 101-seat Riigikogu voted 62-31 to give the 53-year-old a mandate to form a government to replace one that collapsed after coalition infighting.

The fiscal conservative and backer of Estonia's bids to enter the European Union and NATO was nominated last week by President Arnold Ruutel after Reform and the center-left Center Party agreed to form a ruling coalition.

Basketball Boss Killed

TBILISI, Georgia (Reuters) -- Georgian basketball chief Dudu Dadiani was gunned down and killed Tuesday as he was entering the country's Sports Ministry building in Tbilisi. He was 31.

Witnesses said an unidentified gunman approached Dadiani, pulled out a handgun and shot him several times.

The former Georgian international, who served as both vice president and executive director of the ex-Soviet republic's basketball federation, died on his way to a hospital.

Police said they had launched an investigation.

Russian Olympic Spirit

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Vodka and caviar, two of Russia's most famous delicacies, will be on the menu of the country's Olympic athletes and coaches in Salt Lake City.

"Everyone knows Utah is a Mormon State where alcohol is tough to get," Viktor Mamatov, Russia's Olympic chef de mission, was quoted as saying in Tuesday's Sport-Express newspaper.

"Therefore, every member of our delegation is bringing two jars of caviar and two bottles of vodka," he added.

The Russians, who are sending nearly 400 athletes, coaches and officials as part of their large Olympic contingent, are also taking their own chefs to Salt Lake City to cook for them.

The first competitors, consisting of the cross-country skiers and the women's curling team, left for the Utah capital on Monday.

For the Record

The trial of metals magnate Anatoly Bykov is set to begin Wednesday, his lawyer, Genrikh Padva, said by telephone Tuesday. Bykov, the former head of the Krasnoyarsk Aluminum Plant, has been behind bars since October 2000 on charges of arranging an assassination attempt against his former associate, Vilor Struganov. (MT) n Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz left Tuesday for Russia and then China, Iraqi television reported. No details were given by Iraqi authorities. (AP) n A Latvian court said Tuesday it would not take any further action against 16-year-old Alina Lebedeva, the girl who tried to hit Britain's Prince Charles in the face with flowers during his visit to the Baltic state in November. (Reuters) n The journalist Dmitry Pinsker died early Tuesday morning at age 30, leaving a wife and three children. Pinsker, who was a political correspondent for Ekho Moskvy radio and later Itogi magazine, had been in a coma for two days after apparently suffering an allergic reaction to painkillers administered after he fell from a horse, Interfax reported. (MT)