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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Babkin Trial Starts

MOSCOW (AP) -- A Moscow court on Monday opened hearings in the closed-door trial of Anatoly Babkin, a technical university professor who is accused of aiding alleged U.S. spy Edmond Pope.

Babkin, a professor at Moscow's prestigious Bauman Technical Institute, is charged with treason in the form of espionage for allegedly giving Pope secret information on the Shkval underwater missile.

Pope, who spent eight months in jail, was convicted of espionage in December 2000 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. However, President Vladimir Putin pardoned him, citing concerns about hurting U.S.-Russian relations and Pope's health.

Babkin, who pleaded not guilty Monday, has said the Federal Security Service forced him to confess to treason last spring under duress. He has said he was detained by security service officers while suffering from a heart condition, and his trial has been delayed repeatedly because of health problems.

If convicted, Babkin, 72, faces 20 years in prison.

Hostage Suit Grows

MOSCOW (AP) -- Sixteen people who were taken hostage by Chechen rebels in the Dubrovka theater or whose relatives were killed in the siege intend to sue the city government, joining eight others who have already filed suit for moral and material damages, their lawyer said Monday.

Igor Trunov said his clients, whose cases were to be filed in a Moscow court on Monday, would demand from $450,000 to $1.5 million each. The eight who have already filed suit -- five former hostages and three relatives -- have asked for a total of $7.5 million. Their suit is scheduled to be heard on Dec. 24.

Trunov said 20 more victims had contacted his office to register lawsuits, news agencies reported.

Peace Corps Denial

MOSCOW (MT) -- The U.S. Embassy denied Monday that any U.S. Peace Corps volunteers have attempted to snoop on Russian officials.

"Allegations … that Peace Corps personnel have been involved in activities incompatible with their work as volunteers are absolutely groundless," an unidentified embassy official told Interfax.

Federal Security Service chief Nikolai Patrushev on Sunday accused Peace Corps volunteers of attempting to gather information about Russian officials.

Earlier this year, the government refused to extend the visas of 30 of the 64 Peace Corps workers in the country. The government gave no explanation for the refusal at the time.

Seoul in Rocket Deal

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- South Korea has formally agreed to use Russian rockets to launch two scientific satellites into space after the United States opposed plans to use Chinese and Indian rockets, officials said Monday.

South Korea originally had planned to launch the two satellites, weighing 800 kilograms and 120 kilograms, respectively, using Chinese and Indian rockets. But it was forced to move the launches to Russia after Washington intervened, said Lee Chang-yoon, an official at the Science and Technology Ministry.

One satellite will be launched in 2003 and another in 2004.

Key parts of the South Korean satellites were made with U.S. technology, and the United States appeared to be concerned about a possible leak of that technology to China and India, whose space programs are less advanced, Lee said.

Metro Numbers

MOSCOW (MT) -- The Moscow metro carried 3.2 billion passengers this year and expects its revenues to reach 5.87 billion rubles ($185 million), or 13 percent more than last year, Interfax reported Monday.

But the metro, which expects to earn 482 million rubles ($15 million) in revenues from commercial activities not related to transporting passengers, will still post a loss of 62.2 million rubles ($2 million) for the year, Interfax said, citing metro officials.

As of Dec. 1, the total length of the metro lines reached 265.4 kilometers. The Bulvar Dmitriya Donskogo metro station on the gray line, which will open later this month, will become the metro's 164th station, metro officials said.

The metro also acquired 61 new cars this year, bringing the total number to 4,221.

6 Soldiers Desert

MOSCOW (AP) -- Six soldiers deserted their anti-aircraft unit near Moscow, complaining of beatings and other abuse by older servicemen, a soldiers' rights advocate said Monday.

The six soldiers left an air force unit in Podolsk, about 35 kilometers south of Moscow, overnight and showed up in the Moscow office of the Soldiers Mothers' Committee on Monday morning, said committee head Valentina Melnikova.

She said they complained of hazing, specifically of beatings and extortion. They said older servicemen had forced them to pay 1,500 rubles ($50) for a New Year celebration, sell stolen fuel, and pay another soldier's cellphone bill.

The soldiers, who were drafted into the military in June-November 2001, were unarmed, Melnikova said.

Air force spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky said the deserters had returned to their unit.

However, Melnikova said they had not left her office.

Religious Education

MOSCOW (AP) -- Several hundred people have demonstrated in downtown Moscow in support of plans to introduce religious education in public schools.

The demonstrators, some carrying icons and crosses, chanted prayers and praised the Education Ministry, which last month sent instructions to the country's schools outlining an optional course called "Fundamentals of Orthodox Culture."

Valentin Lebedev, head of the Union of Orthodox Citizens, which organized the Sunday rally, told the mostly elderly crowd that opponents of the course wanted to violate Russians' right to know their culture.

"Orthodoxy is everything in our country," he said. "The Orthodox education of our children is the future of a great Russia."