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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Popov Appointed

MOSCOW (MT) -- Former Northern Fleet commander Admiral Vyacheslav Popov, fired last month in a round of navy dismissals by President Vladimir Putin, was appointed Friday to represent the Murmansk region in the upper house of parliament, media reported last week.

The Murmansk regional legislature voted 14-3 to elect Popov to the Federation Council, Interfax reported.

Pavel Sazhinov, the deputy who nominated Popov, said the admiral had in-depth knowledge of the problems that plague the northwestern maritime region, where the Northern Fleet is based.

Popov, who headed the fleet from October 2000, was relieved of his duties as commander Dec. 1 when Putin dismissed or demoted 14 naval officers whom he blamed for incompetence in dealing with the Kursk nuclear submarine disaster.

Lapshin Elected

MOSCOW (MT) -- The head of the Agrarian Party, Mikhail Lapshin, was elected governor of the southern Siberian republic of Altai in a second round of gubernatorial elections Sunday, media reported.

Lapshin garnered 68.2 percent of the vote, surpassing his rival, incumbent Governor Semyon Zubakin, by more than 45 percent, Interfax said. Lapshin, a charismatic speaker with populist appeal, was backed by the pro-Kremlin Unity and Fatherland party.

Yeltsin Mistakes

MOSCOW (AP) -- Former President Boris Yeltsin has acknowledged in a rare television interview that he made mistakes while leading the country's first post-communist government, but he insisted that he led the nation in the right direction.

"Not every decision of mine was right. Such decisions had to be made for the first time, and they could not have been made without any mistakes," Yeltsin told RTR television Dec. 28.

Yeltsin said the mistakes he made were not strategic errors "that would have influenced Russia's history," Interfax reported. "There were tactical mistakes in some less significant options, topics and issues," Yeltsin said.

TV Station Bombed

VLADIKAVKAZ, North Ossetia (AP) -- A local television station was forced off the air Monday after a bomb destroyed its transmitters, an act which station employees called a bid to influence their coverage of the North Ossetia presidential campaign.

The bomb -- equivalent to 400 grams of TNT -- ripped through the upper floor of the Electron culture palace in Vladikavkaz, destroying equipment belonging to TV Visavi Plus, an independent station that backs the incumbent president of North Ossetia. No one was injured in the explosion.

Elbrus Tsarikayev, who heads the television company, said he thinks the station was targeted because of its support for President Alexander Dzasokhov, who is seeking a second term. The presidential election in North Ossetia is scheduled for Jan. 27.

U.S. Commitment

CRAWFORD, Texas (NYT) -- After nearly a year of threatening to end programs aimed at helping Russia stop the spread of nuclear weapons, the White House announced Dec. 28 that it remained committed to an effort to help Russia dispose of hundreds of tons of military plutonium.

The U.S. government said it would also continue a program to reduce the dependence of some Russian cities on nuclear weapons development and to provide alternative jobs for nuclear scientists.

In addition, the White House said that the Pentagon would seek to speed up the Cooperative Threat Reduction project to construct a chemical weapons destruction facility at Shchuchye, 1,600 kilometers southeast of Moscow.

Mrs. Putin Takes Bow

MOSCOW (AP) -- President Vladimir Putin's wife has made a public debut of sorts with a greeting to underprivileged children and a newspaper interview in which she says she sometimes argues with her husband.

The Dec. 28 interview provided a rare glimpse into the first family's closely guarded private life, with Lyudmila Putin saying she does not hesitate to discuss problems "as a wife'' with her husband of 18 years.

"When we touch on some problem, I talk about my attitude to it, and I even argue sometimes ... though our points of view coincide more often than not," she told Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Lyudmila Putin appeared Dec. 28 before some 6,000 residents of children's homes who were invited to the Kremlin's opening of its New Year's tree celebrations. "With three days to go before New Year's Eve, the magic night when all the wishes we've thought up come true, I'd like to give each of you today, in addition to New Year gifts, a little happiness,'' she said in a slightly halting voice.

Thailand Visas

BANGKOK, Thailand (Reuters) -- Thailand said Monday it might relax visa requirements for Russians just three weeks after a decision to tighten them in an attempt to crack down on crime.

In December, Thailand slashed the number of countries whose citizens were eligible for visas on arrival to 17 from 96 and reduced the number of countries with nationals requiring no visas for up to 30-day stays to 37 from 57. Russia was one of the countries whose citizens lost the right to visas on arrival.

Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said it was unfair to treat Russian tourists more harshly than others. "I would feel guilty if we deleted Russia from the list of eligible countries," he told reporters.

Prokhorov Dies

MOSCOW (AP) -- Alexander Prokhorov, who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1964 for work that led to the development of the laser, has died.

Prokhorov died early Tuesday in his Moscow apartment at age 85. The cause of his death was not announced.

In a telegram to Prokhorov's family, President Vladimir Putin hailed him as a "brilliant physicist" whose "discoveries have to a large degree determined the development of civilization."

Satirist Attacked

MOSCOW (MT) -- Renowned satirist Mikhail Zhvanetsky fell victim to violent car thieves over the January holidays, incurring a loss that he estimated at about $100,000, media reported.

Three assailants attacked and beat the popular humorist when he arrived at his dacha in Serebrenny Bor in northwest Moscow on Saturday, Interfax reported. The unidentified men then shoved Zhvanetsky into the back seat of his new Mercedes sports-utility vehicle and drove him to the industrial Kapotnya neighborhood in southern Moscow, where they threw him out of the car. The report said the attackers also stole unspecified official documents, Zhvanetsky's mobile phone, $600 in cash and a bag containing the writer's notebooks.

CSKA Shootout

MOSCOW (AP) -- Five gunmen wearing camouflage fatigues and armed with automatic weapons attacked the CSKA Sport Complex last Wednesday night, killing a security guard and seriously injuring another, news agencies reported.

Police launched a citywide search for the assailants, news agencies said. The complex is used by the CSKA hockey team, but also contains a market. Investigators speculated the attack may have been linked to infighting among organized crime groups connected to the complex, Itar-Tass reported.

Pet Market Shut Down

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Moscow's fabled pet market has been closed down by police.

The gates to the market in eastern Moscow were welded shut Dec. 29 and its stands, normally teeming with caged or tethered wildlife of every description, were deserted after police moved on traders.

City officials said this was the definitive closure of the Stalin-era market that, in the post-communist period, has thrived on selling exotic birds, reptiles and other creatures to wealthy Russians with a taste for the extravagant. Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov has said the market -- known as the "bird market" in Russian -- fails to meet sanitary norms and has offered an alternative site far from the city center.

For the Record

Lev Zaikov, a former hard-line member of the Soviet Communist Party Politburo under Mikhail Gorbachev, died Monday in St. Petersburg, Itar-Tass reported. He was 78. (AP)

 Andrei Kozlenok, head of the Russian-American Golden ADA company, was released from prison Tuesday, having completed a four-year term for plundering $187 million in diamonds and gold from state reserves, NTV television reported. (MT)

Dmitry Sklyarov returned home to Moscow on Monday after escaping prosecution for breaking controversial U.S. copyright laws. (AP)