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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Nuclear Testing Ban

MOSCOW (AP) -- The Foreign Ministry has reiterated its commitment to a ban on nuclear weapons testing amid indications that the United States wants to reduce the time it would take to resume tests in case they are needed.

"Russia consistently adheres to the policy of strengthening international agreements in the sphere of nonproliferation and dismantlement, the relevance of which, unfortunately, is growing in light of the erroneous decision by the United States to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said Wednesday in a statement.

The United States has banned underground nuclear testing since 1992 but the government of U.S. President George W. Bush, though committed to the moratorium for now, says the United States should reduce the time it will take to resume such tests. It currently would take about two or three years.

Pugachyov Appointed

MOSCOW (MT) -- Sergei Pugachyov, the chairman of Mezhprombank, has been appointed Federation Council representative for the Siberian republic of Tuva.

Pugachyov, 38, is likely to be made chairman of a new financial markets committee in the upper chamber of parliament, Vremya Novostei reported. The committee is to be created later this month.

Pugachyov, until recently a businessman shy of the spotlight, enjoys a reputation as a close ally of Putin. Media reported that Pugachyov introduced Putin to Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov, who later became the president's father confessor.

Apart from having a 52 percent stake in Mezhprombank, Pugachyov also owns 28 percent of the Almazy Yakutii diamond mining company, the Kremlin-linked web site reported.

Uzbekistan Talks

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (AP) -- Uzbekistan and Russia underlined their commitment to stability in Afghanistan and the rest of Central Asia and to help humanitarian aid reach Afghanistan during two days of high-level talks that ended Thursday.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov expressed their nations' hopes for a "peaceful, independent Afghanistan, free from terrorism and drugs, living in harmony with its neighbors and the international community," according to a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Tikhonov Search

MOSCOW (AP) -- An Interpol official confirmed Thursday that Russia had asked for assistance in tracking down a four-time Olympic biathlon champion accused of plotting to kill a Siberian governor.

Russia submitted a request to Interpol on Dec. 19 to establish the whereabouts of Alexander Tikhonov, who is accused of plotting to poison Aman Tuleyev, the governor of the Kemerovo region and a former presidential candidate.

Tikhonov, who was arrested in August 2000 and released a month later for health reasons, had been undergoing treatment at a clinic in Austria last year, said Igor Tsyryulnikov, a spokesman for Interpol's Russia bureau. Russian authorities don't know where Tikhonov went after he checked out.

Tsyryulnikov said the request had been forwarded to the Austrian Interpol bureau and that Tikhonov was believed to still be in that country. Tsyryulnikov said an answer was expected from Interpol headquarters by Jan. 19.

Powell Spills Beans

MOSCOW (MT) -- President Vladimir Putin helped arrange the U.S. announcement that it would withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said.

"I notified Foreign Minister [Igor] Ivanov," Powell said in an interview with The Washington Times published Wednesday. "He and I talked about it for two days. The [U.S.] President [George W. Bush] then called President Putin, and President Putin and I arranged the manner in which we would make all of these announcements."

Powell and Ivanov met in Bucharest on Dec. 4. Bush called Putin on Dec. 7.

On Dec. 13, Bush served formal notice that the United States was withdrawing from the treaty -- a move effective in six months.

Putin responded in an address on RTR television: "This step was not a surprise for us," he said. "However, we consider it a mistake."

Tajik Earthquake

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (AP) -- Rescuers searched through rubble Thursday for possible victims of an earthquake that struck early Wednesday northeast of the Tajik capital, killing at least three people.

A more complete assessment of the damage in the town of Rogun, 100 kilometers northeast of Dushanbe, was expected to be completed by Thursday evening, said Abdurakhmon Radzhabov, first deputy in the Emergency Situations Ministry.

More than 580 people have been rendered homeless by the earthquake, which had a magnitude of 6 to 7 at its epicenter.

Stolen Cars Reappear

BRUSSELS, Belgium (Reuters) -- Several cars stolen in Belgium 10 years ago have resurfaced in Russia.

Police in Mechelen, north of Brussels, said they received a fax from Interpol Moscow in late December saying the cars -- two Soviet-era Ladas and a Mercedes stolen in Brussels in early 1992 -- were now safe in a Moscow depot.

The owners were immediately informed but reacted unenthusiastically as their losses had been compensated by insurance long ago, police said.

Putin to Visit France

MOSCOW (AP) -- President Vladimir Putin will visit France and Poland next week, the presidential press service reported Thursday.

On invitation from French President Jacques Chirac, Putin will travel to Paris on Jan. 15. He will then travel to Poland Jan. 16-17, the service said in a statement.