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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Kaliningrad Talks

MOSCOW (AP) -- Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov emerged Thursday from a meeting with top European Union officials optimistic about the prospects for a solution to the nagging problem of the Kaliningrad enclave in the face of the EU's imminent expansion.

"We have seen a serious coming-together of positions," Ivanov said, without elaborating, after a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, European External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten, Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller and Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou. Denmark currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, and Greece takes over next year.

At a news conference, Ivanov and Moeller emphasized that any solution must respect the sovereignty of Lithuania -- the EU candidate whose territory Russian trains cross to reach Kaliningrad -- EU legislation and the interests of Russians.

"It's very important that all parties involved in this problem show flexibility," Moeller said.

Russia is pushing for visa-free travel for Russians through future EU members to and from the Baltic Sea enclave. EU expansion expected in 2004 will leave the region of 1.5 million inhabitants surrounded by the EU.

Both sides reiterated that they are eager to solve the problem, which Solana termed "technical" and "not political," ahead of the Nov. 11 EU-Russia summit in Copenhagen, Denmark.

New Iraq Probe

KIEV (Reuters) -- Ukraine's parliament decided Thursday to set up a commission to launch its own investigation into U.S. charges the country breached UN sanctions and sold an aircraft detection system to Iraq.

An overwhelming majority of lawmakers voted to set up the commission to probe reports President Leonid Kuchma approved the sale to Iraq of the Kolchuga early warning system, which could complicate any U.S.-led military action against Baghdad.

The motion, discussed rapidly amid a debate on the 2003 budget, was approved by 221 deputies in the 450-seat chamber -- far in excess of the 150 votes required.

Kuchma has denied he sold the system.

Arrest Investigated

KIEV (AP) -- Ukraine's Interior Ministry is investigating whether police acted correctly during the arrest of a Russian businessman, Interior Minister Yury Smirnov said, Interfax reported Thursday.

Smirnov said he could not comment further about the legality of Konstantin Grigorishin's arrest until the ministry completes its internal investigation.

Grigorishin was arrested Sunday on illegal weapons charges. Police said that he had a loaded gun and packets of white powder assumed to be cocaine.

His arrest came soon after he and Ukrainian lawmaker Volodymyr Sivkovich were allegedly attacked by armed men purporting to be undercover police, a U.S.-based advocacy group, Friends of Ukraine, said in a statement Wednesday.

It said the assailants forced the two out of their car, hitting them with gun-butts, and stopped the attack only after Sivkovich identified himself as a lawmaker.

Police later came to the scene and arrested Grigorishin. Sivkovich, an unaligned lawmaker who quit the pro-presidential majority in Ukraine's legislature on Tuesday, wasn't arrested because he enjoys immunity as a legislator under Ukrainian law.

A Kiev municipal court judge on Tuesday upheld the arrest of Grigorishin, whose lawyer argued that he was illegally detained because police had no warrant for his arrest.

Smirnov said that the court studied thoroughly whether the gun was planted on Grigorishin before deciding to keep him in custody on charges of illegal possession of arms.

The investigation was continuing Thursday.

Copter Crash Kills 1

MOSCOW (AP) -- One person was killed and two injured in a helicopter crash in the Yaroslavl region, officials said.

The Mi-2 helicopter belonging to the Barkol company crashed while inspecting a natural gas pipeline in the Yaroslavl region, about 240 kilometers northeast of Moscow, Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman Viktor Beltsov said.

Beltsov said investigators were trying to determine the cause of the crash.

Annan Visits Astana

ASTANA, Kazakhstan (AP) -- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in the Kazakh capital Thursday for his first-ever trip to Central Asia, touring a region that has gained international attention for its strategic importance in anti-terror operations in neighboring Afghanistan.

In Astana, Annan was to meet President Nursultan Nazarbayev and receive the country's highest civilian honor -- the Order of Dostyk, or Friendship, of the first degree -- for supporting the development of UN-Kazakh relations.

On Friday, he was to meet heads of UN agencies and visits parliament.

Miners Killed

KIEV (AP) -- Rescue workers found the bodies of five miners and say two other workers are still missing following an explosion that ripped through a mine in eastern Ukraine earlier in the week, emergency officials said Thursday.

Two bodies were lifted to the surface late Wednesday and workers continued to dig out three other bodies Thursday morning from the collapsed layer after a gas blast some 860 meters underground at the Haevoho mine, the Emergency Situations Ministry said.

A total of 16 miners were working at the mine when the explosion occurred Tuesday.

Nine miners escaped unharmed. Six other miners from a neighboring underground section were also rescued unhurt.

Meanwhile, one miner was killed late Wednesday by a winch at a depth of 1,195 meters at the Batkivshchyna mine in the Dnipropetrovsk region, the ministry said.

The accident occurred due to violation of safety rules, it said.