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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

St. Pete Work Blasted

ST. PETERSBURG (AP) -- The country's top construction official criticized St. Petersburg's preparations for its 300th anniversary celebration next year, saying work was behind schedule and funds were being squandered.

The government is banking on the May 2003 celebration as a centerpiece of its foreign policy efforts. Some 40 foreign leaders have been invited for the jubilee.

With just six months to go, however, officials are clearly becoming nervous. After a parliamentary oversight commission complained to President Vladimir Putin about preparations, the government appointed a special auditing commission headed by Nikolai Koshman, chairman of the State Construction Committee.

"I must say, there are objects where work is organized on an unsatisfactory level," Koshman said Wednesday.

Koshman told reporters he had appointed his own people to oversee the construction for the anniversary and that he would "change the system of financing reconstruction of the sites to provide complete transparency of the process."

Protest Fax

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) -- A fax protesting the meeting of Chechens in the Danish capital last month was sent from the home of the former interpreter for jailed Chechen rebel envoy Akhmed Zakayev.

Sten Jakobsen on Thursday confirmed that the letter warning the Danish government that the Oct. 28-29 World Chechen Congress would harm relations between the two countries, had been sent from his fax machine at home.

"My wife sent it in connection with her job without my knowledge," Jakobsen said about the facsimile sent Oct. 27 and signed by "The Council of Russian-speaking Associations in Denmark."

He was removed Wednesday as Zakayev's interpreter after news reports that he was married to a woman employed by a Russian cultural center that is financed by the Russian Embassy in Copenhagen. Jakobsen helped Zakayev, who does not speak Danish, in his confidential conversations with his defense lawyers and in court.

Champion Gets Award

MOSCOW (MT) -- Former Moscow Times editor Mark Champion, who currently works as The Wall Street Journal Europe's security and policy reporter, has been awarded one of Britain's top journalism prizes for a report on Prime Minister Tony Blair's attempts to find a new global role for Britain.

The Foreign Press Association on Wednesday named Champion as the winner for the best "U.K. story of the year by a London-based foreign correspondent." His report appeared in The Wall Street Journal Europe on Jan. 9.

Champion was editor of The Moscow Times from May 1994 to February 1997.

Shame Game

VILNIUS, Lithuania (Reuters) -- A Lithuanian debt collection agency has begun displaying the names of nonpayers on a huge video screen on top of the national opera to shame them into coughing up.

Fed up with legal obstacles to recovering money, Zvilgsnis Is Arciau (Closer Look) has resorted to embarrassment as a tool. "We want to promote a culture of paying on time, and publicity is the most painful way to pressure repeat offenders," said Gediminas Ziemelis, head of Zvilgsnis Is Arciau, which is contracted to recover $7 million this year.

Ziemelis said he would name 15 to 20 firms a week on the large video screen in full view of rush hour traffic.