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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Fire Erupts at Arsenal

VLADIVOSTOK, Far East (AP) -- A fire erupted Wednesday at a sprawling navy arsenal on the edge of Vladivostok, sending artillery shells flying around the area and prompting authorities to evacuate some residents.

The fire broke out when arsenal personnel were destroying outdated shells and spread through the grass of the hills on the southern part of Vladivostok, but firemen managed to stop it from spreading further, said Captain Alexander Kosolapov, a spokesman for the Pacific Fleet.

No injuries were reported.

Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Viktor Fyodorov told reporters that the fire had already caused the detonation of artillery shells held in 12 railroad cars. He said the explosions sent shells flying to the distance up to 800 meters around the arsenal.

Police and emergency officials have sealed roads around the arsenal, and evacuated some residents.

Military prosecutors have opened an investigation into the arsenal fire on charges of negligence, Itar-Tass reported.

Deadline Extension

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- Russia will be allowed extra time to get rid of its chemical weapons stockpiles, the international chemical weapons watchdog said.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons targets the destruction of all chemical weapons in stages by 2007.

However, Russia, who has the largest chemical weapons stockpile of any country, has struggled with the cost of getting rid of it.

The OPCW said Tuesday it will set new deadlines for Russia in the coming months.

$20M for Refugees

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- The European Union on Wednesday approved 20.5 million euros ($20.1 million) in aid for refugees from Chechnya to provide food, shelter and clothing.

The latest aid brings the total of humanitarian assistance to refugees to almost 70 million euros ($68.6 million) over the past three years.

Grozny Hostel Blast

GROZNY (AP) -- An explosion tore through a five-story refugee hostel in Grozny on Wednesday, injuring seven people, its residents said.

Authorities in Chechnya and the hostel's administrator, Makka Murtazaliyeva, said the early morning blast was caused by a gas leak, but some residents said they felt a smell of powder suggesting that the explosives were involved.

The hostel is home to several hundred people who have returned to Grozny from refugee camps in northern Chechnya and Ingushetia.

The explosion ravaged one section of the building, tearing off its walls. "Shortly after I got up for morning prayer I heard … the sound of an explosion," said one hostel resident, Khadishat Tulsultanova.

4 Million HIV Cases

MOSCOW (AP) -- The country's HIV-positive population could soon reach 3 million to 4 million given the country's skyrocketing infection rate, a top AIDS official said.

There are 215,000 officially registered infected people, said Oleg Yurin, deputy director of the Center for AIDS Prevention and Treatment. But he estimated the actual number at between 1 million and 2 million, Interfax said.

He said one problem was the shortage of Russian-made drugs to treat AIDS. He said a year of treatment with Western drugs costs $10,000 and that only two AIDS drugs are produced domestically.

Chechen Detained

MAKHACHKALA, Dagestan (AP) -- Customs officials seized a radioactive package from a resident of Chechnya who was trying to cross Russia's border with Azerbaijan, authorities said.

A man identified as Ilyas Davletmurzayev was detained after a meter detected a source of radiation in his luggage at the border late Monday, said an official at the Dagestani customs department.

The official said a small box in the man's luggage was emitting radiation at a rate of 1,800 microroentgens per hour, which is well above normal background levels but far below what is considered dangerous for a single dose.

The official did not say what device or substance was emitting the radiation. Itar-Tass reported that authorities suspected it was a mixture of osmium and plutonium.

Conviction Upheld

MINSK, Belarus (AP) -- A court in Belarus on Tuesday rejected the appeal of a journalist sentenced to two years in internal exile for slandering President Alexander Lukashenko.

Viktor Ivashkevich's conviction last month stemmed from an article he wrote saying that Lukashenko had made money from illegal arms sales and by exploiting the Russia-Belarus customs union to smuggle goods.

The article in the independent newspaper Rabochy, of which Ivashkevich is editor, was timed to come out during the presidential election campaign last September, but authorities seized 39,000 issues of the edition before it hit newsstands.

"It's clear that this is political revenge against a journalist and against freedom of speech," Ivashkevich said after Tuesday's ruling by the Minsk City Court.

Miss Captivity Game

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) -- Move over Miss Universe, make room for Miss Captivity, a contest to pick the most attractive female inmate serving jail time in Lithuania.

The organizer of the event, television producer Arunas Valinskas, announced this week that he finalized a deal with Lithuania's sole female prison and already had accepted applications from 36 would-be title holders.

"We'll attempt to find beauty where you might think there is none," he said at a news conference Monday.

"The prisoners are, after all, women first and foremost."

The prison, the Panevezys Penal Labor Colony, holds more than 1,000 inmates.

The competition will be shown live on the private LNK TV. Valinskas said the likely contest date was Nov. 15.

In addition to what many might see as the dubious honor of being crowned Miss Captivity, the winner and runners-up will qualify for 10,000 litas ($2,500) in prizes.