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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Party Taps Gryzlov

MOSCOW (MT) -- Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov was elected to a top post affiliated with the pro-Kremlin United Russia party on Wednesday, and he said he would focus on preparations for next year's parliamentary elections.

The party's 22-member higher council added Gryzlov to its list of three co-chairmen -- Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu and Tatarstan Governor Mintimer Shaimiyev -- who take turns heading the council. Gryzlov was unanimously elected chairman for the year to come, replacing Shoigu, whose term is coming to an end, party spokesman Alexei Zhukov said.

The higher council is an advisory body, but its powerful co-chairmen have clout over the party's representatives in the State Duma and at other levels of government.

Gryzlov's ministerial post does not allow him to hold party membership, but he has been a member of the higher council since the party's creation last December.

Rules for Deputies

MOSCOW (MT) -- The State Duma on Wednesday revamped the rules for electing its deputies, passing a bill that increases the maximum limit on campaign funding, bans the 11th-hour disqualification of candidates and raises the vote ceiling for parties hoping to enter the Duma.

The biggest change in the bill is an increase in the minimum percentage of votes necessary for electoral blocs to get into the Duma. As of 2007, an electoral bloc will need 7 percent instead of the current 5 percent.

The bill says that only a court can strike a Duma candidate from the ballot and must do so no later than five days before an election.

It also sets the number of voter signatures necessary to nominate a candidate and increases the amount permissible in campaign funds -- from 2 million rubles ($63,000) to 6 million rubles for candidates.

The bill, passed Wednesday in the third and final reading with a vote of 274-58, must be passed by the Federation Council and signed by the president to become law.

Funds for Icebreakers

LONDON (AP) -- Britain is donating 700,000 British pounds ($1.1 million) to help protect two nuclear-powered Russian icebreakers, the government said Wednesday.

The money comes from a 84 million pound fund set up in July 2000 to help clean up nuclear sites in the former Soviet Union.

"In the current international climate nuclear, security must be given the utmost priority, and I am committed to making the improvements wherever necessary," said Energy Minister Brian Wilson during a visit to the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.

Belarus to Retaliate

MINSK, Belarus (AP) -- Belarus intends to retaliate for the decision by most European Union countries to impose a travel ban on President Alexander Lukashenko and seven of his top ministers, the head the upper house of parliament's foreign affairs committee said Wednesday.

In the days leading up to the ban, Lukashenko repeatedly blamed the United States for putting pressure on the EU, and foreign affairs committee head Nikolai Cherginets echoed that criticism Wednesday.

"Our trans-Atlantic uncles from the United States decided to jerk their marionettes in Europe. We certainly will take adequate measures and we'll see for whom it will be worse," Cherginets said.

He did not specify what sorts of measures were being considered.

Preacher Killed

VLADIKAVKAZ, North Ossetia (AP) -- Unidentified attackers have killed a widely respected Muslim preacher and his son in Chechnya, officials said Wednesday.

Sayid-Pasha Salikhov and his son were shot and killed late Tuesday outside their house in the village of Starye Atagi, an official in the Kremlin-backed Chechen administration said on condition of anonymity.

Salikhov was from a family of spiritual teachers who arrived from Mecca in the early 20th century.

Chechen administration chief Akhmad Kadyrov said Sayid-Pasha Salikhov's death "is a serious loss for our republic. People like him are indispensable now that we are trying to overcome a very serious crisis."

Trawler Reports

VLADIVOSTOK, Far East (AP) -- Naval and border guard ships sped Wednesday to a Russian fishing vessel in the Sea of Japan after a report that it had been seized by gunmen.

The ships' aim was to escort the trawler Tulun to a port where officials could sort out contradictory claims about what happened to the vessel.

Interfax said cited an unnamed official in the Transportation Ministry as saying there had been no armed seizure of the trawler and that the matter centered on a dispute between owners of the vessel.

Burying Terrorists

MOSCOW (MT) -- The State Duma on Wednesday passed a bill banning the release of suspected terrorists' corpses and classifying information about their burial sites, Interfax reported.

The bill refers to the interment of people suspected of terrorist activity who die "as a result of a stop being put to this terrorist activity."

The Union of Right Forces faction protested that the bill amounted to punishing innocent relatives who would not be able to bury their loved ones.

The bill passed in the third reading with a vote of 296-34 and will now go to the Federation Council.

Hacker Nabbed

MOSCOW (MT) -- City police have detained a Moscow-based hacker suspected of extorting money from a U.S. company, Interfax reported Wednesday.

Eduard Golitsyn, 28, threatened to delete confidential files he accessed through the company's web site unless he was paid $4,000, a police source told Interfax.

The company, which was not identified, transferred the money into the account specified by Golitsyn, but he was detained before he could make a withdrawal.

Pushkin in Ethiopia

MOSCOW (MT) -- A bronze bust of poet Alexander Pushkin was unveiled in the center of the Ethiopian capital on Tuesday, Interfax reported.

The monument -- the first on the African continent dedicated to Russia's most acclaimed poet -- was presented to Addis Ababa by the Moscow city government.

Pushkin's great-grandfather is popularly thought to have been an Ethiopian slave, given to Peter the Great by a Russian ambassador.