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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Theater Hearing Held

MOSCOW (AP) -- A court on Tuesday held a preliminary hearing on a lawsuit against the city of Moscow by dozens of victims of the Chechen raid on a theater this fall, and the plaintiffs' lawyer said his clients were demanding close to $40 million.

Lawyer Igor Trunov told reporters at the Tverskoi district court that 38 clients had joined the suit, including both former hostages and survivors of those killed and injured in the crisis. Altogether, they are asking more than $39.02 million, he said.

The court set a Jan. 16 date to start substantive hearings in the case, Trunov said after Tuesday's closed-door session.

He said there is a legal precedent for asking for compensation of up to $1 million per person. He pointed to a Moscow court decision in February ordering Novaya Gazeta to pay $1 million to a judge who sued the newspaper for libel.

Also Tuesday, the Moscow city government announced it would pay 1,500 rubles ($47) per month to the children of hostages who died in the theater siege, TVS television reported.

'Nord Ost' Ticket Sale

MOSCOW (MT) -- Tickets for "Nord Ost" went on sale Tuesday as the musical prepared to return to the stage Feb. 8, Interfax reported.

The first person to buy a ticket Tuesday was Alyona Strikalina, one of the 800 hostages held in the "Nord Ost" theater by armed Chechens in October, Interfax said.

"Nord Ost" director Georgy Vasilyev said tickets sold for the performances that were canceled after the hostage crisis remain valid, according to Interfax.

He said the musical has collected some 15 million rubles ($660,000) to restore the musical, mostly from private donations. He added that the production was 21 million rubles in debt after the theater siege.

TB Loan Approved

MOSCOW (MT) -- After months of negotiations, the government on Tuesday approved a $150 million loan from the World Bank to fight tuberculosis and AIDS, the World Bank said.

The funds will finance the Tuberculosis and AIDS Control Project, which aims to improve the prevention, treatment and monitoring of TB and AIDS cases. "Now that the negotiations have been completed and signed, we can move quickly to the implementation of the project," said Julian Schweitzer, the World Bank's director for Russia.

Sports Channel Plan

MOSCOW (MT) -- Press Minister Mikhail Lesin said Monday that small private sports channel 7TV will be turned into a new national sports channel, according to the ministry's web site.

The ministry, the state-owned VGTRK holding and the State Sports Committee are negotiating a deal with 7TV on the purchase of a stake in the channel that would allow the state to invest in the channel's expansion, Kommersant reported Tuesday. Officials said a deal may be reached by year-end.

President Vladimir Putin first spoke about the need for a national sports channel in February, and sports committee head Vyacheslav Fetisov said last week after a meeting with Putin that a channel will be launched in three to four months.

Titov Convicted, Freed

MOSCOW (AP) -- Former Media-MOST financial director Anton Titov was convicted Tuesday for misappropriating a loan and sentenced to three years, but set free under an amnesty granted earlier.

Titov was arrested in January 2001 at the height of what his supporters maintain was a Kremlin-orchestrated drive to silence the critical media holding.

He was accused of embezzling a loan from Gazprom to Media-MOST and had also faced charges of using a forged document to mislead creditors.

A Moscow court convicted him on the charges connected to the loan but acquitted him on accusations of money laundering and fraud, Interfax reported. Titov had pleaded innocent.

Titov was set free in the courtroom under an amnesty granted earlier by the State Duma on the 55th anniversary of victory in World War II.

Letter Brings Hope

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- A Christmas letter from Russian Orthodox leader Patriarch Alexy II to Pope John Paul II offers "new hope" that an often-tense relationship could improve, the head of the Catholic Church in Russia said Tuesday.

The patriarch sent a letter to the pontiff last week calling for a resumption of "our brotherly contacts." Relations are strained over Orthodox allegations that the Vatican is trying to expand in traditional Orthodox lands.

In comments to Vatican Radio on Tuesday, the head of the Catholic Church in Russia, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, expressed happiness at the patriarch's letter.

"Russian Catholics accepted with joy and hope the words that the patriarch of Moscow addressed to the holy father on the occasion of Christmas," he said. "In a special way, we are inspired by his words, which ask for a renewal of the brotherly dialogue.

"These words can give a new hope."

Fir Wish Comes True

MOSCOW (MT) -- Complaining to President Vladimir Putin got quick results for a girl in the far eastern city of Birobidzhan.

The girl complained on Putin's call-in show Thursday that an artificial New Year's tree had been set up in the city's central square.

Birobidzhan officials have ordered that a 22-meter fir tree be found, cut down and raised in another city square, Ekho Moskvy radio reported Tuesday.

Some 450,000 rubles ($14,150) has been set aside for the operation, which will include flying in the tree by helicopter. Residents of Birobidzhan, the capital of the Jewish autonomous region, which is part of the Khabarovsk region, plan to name the second tree "The President," Ekho Moskvy said.