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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Chopper Downed

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Southern Russia (AP) -- A helicopter attempting to land near the military's main base in Chechnya was shot down Tuesday by a missile, killing all four aboard.

The Mi-8 helicopter was 30 meters off the ground when it was hit, caught fire and fell in an explosion near the base in the region at Khankala, said Alexander Lemeshev, an official at the Emergency Situations Ministry's southern branch.

According to preliminary information, three crew were aboard with one passenger, an officer who was accompanying some cargo, Lemeshev said.

The deputy commander of Interior Ministry forces, Stanislav Kavun, told Interfax that the craft was shot down while attempting to land.

In August, a helicopter packed with troops was shot down near the Khankala base, killing at least 119 people.

Patriarch Recuperating

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II was flown to Moscow on Tuesday from the southern city of Astrakhan, where he had been hospitalized with hypertension, church officials said.

The 73-year-old religious leader fell ill while visiting Astrakhan on Monday, prompting church officials to cancel his participation in a service for victims of the hostage crisis in Moscow, Interfax reported. Alexy was put in the intensive care unit of an Astrakhan hospital.

"The patriarch had a hypertension crisis yesterday, but his condition improved today," Gulnaz Sotnikova, the head of the church's charity foundation, said on NTV television.

Alexy was rushed to the elite Central Clinical Hospital, which treats government officials.

Sergei Mironov, the head of the presidential medical center, said the patriarch's condition was "quite satisfactory" and he could be discharged from the hospital after between seven and 10 days of treatment.

Danes Seek Proof

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) -- Denmark on Tuesday asked Russia to provide proof of its claim that "terrorists" were participating in a conference on Chechnya.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday that the two-day World Chechen Congress in Copenhagen "is organized and financed by Chechen terrorists, their accomplices and their patrons from al-Qaida."

Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said banning the conference would violate a constitutional right to free speech and assembly.

But he promised to take the necessary legal steps if "concrete information and evidence" was received from Russia that any delegates had terrorist connections.

Chechen separatists and supporters ended the conference condemning the attack on the Moscow theater and "all kinds of terrorism."

Amnesty Starts a Drive

MOSCOW (AP) -- Amnesty International launched a campaign Tuesday to highlight human rights violations in Russia, saying the nation suffered from a "climate of impunity."

"When people around the world think about human rights abuses in Russia, they think about Chechnya," said Irene Khan, the organization's secretary-general. "But what is much less known is that the same climate of impunity which has marked the Chechen situation unfortunately permeates the entire criminal justice system."

Amnesty said the theater siege was a "terrifying reminder of the unsolved situation in Chechnya."

While it condemned the attack, Amnesty said the raid grew out of a conflict "which has led to huge human suffering of all those involved," and it urged President Vladimir Putin not to use the war against terrorism to further human rights abuses.

New Chechen Food Aid

ROME (AP) -- The UN World Food Program announced Tuesday a new food aid operation to help feed more than 290,000 people in Chechnya and neighboring Ingushetia.

The $16 million operation will provide 34,000 tons of food over 12 months starting Jan. 1.

Space Station Liftoff

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (Reuters) -- A Russian-Belgian crew will take Belgian chocolate and a teddy bear with them when they blast off into space Wednesday.

The launch of the manned Soyuz rocket to the international space station, originally set for Monday, was delayed following the explosion of a similar Soyuz cargo booster after liftoff from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome on Oct. 15.

That explosion, which Russian space officials blamed on a foreign object in the rocket's engine, killed one serviceman.

Flight engineer Frank de Winne said Tuesday that he was ready to go. "Of course, there's some agitation, but I am in a great mood," he said, adding: "I am taking Belgian chocolates."

Engineer Yury Lonchakov said a small teddy bear would accompany him on the 12-day trip.

"That's my son's favorite toy, and I'm taking it with me as a talisman," he said.

Flight commander Sergei Zalyotin said he was taking some "personal memorabilia" from the Mir space station.

SPS Official Shot Dead

VLADIVOSTOK, Far East (AP) -- A businessman and local leader of the Union of Right Forces party was fatally shot Tuesday at the entrance to his apartment building in the Pacific Ocean port of Nakhodka, prosecutors said.

Viktor Aksinin died on the spot from a bullet wound to the head, prosecutors said.

Aksinin was the director of Nakhodka's branch of the Union of Right Forces, or SPS, and was an outspoken human rights advocate, according to party officials.

He also ran Strategia, a company dealing with oil deliveries, Itar-Tass reported.

Strategia also provided legal services to the Union of Right Forces party.

Belarus Denies a Visa

MINSK, Belarus (Reuters) -- Belarus effectively expelled the last member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Tuesday by denying her a visa, in what the opposition said was a bid by President Alexander Lukashenko to stifle criticism of his rule.

Alina Josan said she had to leave because her visa had not been renewed.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment on Josan's visa, but Lukashenko has accused the OSCE of openly supporting the opposition.

'42nd Street' Canceled

MOSCOW (MT) -- A performance of the musical "42nd Street" was canceled Tuesday evening after a bomb scare at the MDM theater, or Moskovsky Dvorets Molodyozhi, on Komsomolsky Prospekt, Interfax reported.

A search of the theater began at around 5 p.m., but security was relaxed several hours later and visitors were allowed into parts of the building, the report said.

Interfax and Ekho Moskvy radio reported that, earlier in the day, police had denied reports of a bomb scare, saying that the search had to do with heightened security in the city.

American Arrested

MOSCOW (AP) -- An American woman was arrested while transiting through Sheremetyevo Airport on suspicion of smuggling drugs, police said Tuesday.

The American, identified as Louisa Rosino Cabrino from Nevada, was detained Sunday evening after passing through the airport en route from New Delhi, India, to Amsterdam, said Tatyana Bondareva, spokeswoman for the airport police.

She was found carrying a wooden statue of an owl, which allegedly was filled with brown sticks of hashish, Bondareva said.

Authorities said the statue and the alleged drugs weighed 968 grams.

Police said the American was being held while an investigation was being carried out.

The U.S. Embassy did not immediately comment.