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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Rebel Attacks

VLADIKAVKAZ, North Ossetia (AP) -- Rebels clashed with troops in Grozny, killing two and wounding one, a Chechen government official said Tuesday, and Itar-Tass reported the militants were "hunting" policemen serving the Moscow-appointed administration.

Troops had stepped up security in Chechnya over the past few days, anticipating attacks in connection with the anniversary of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's mass deportation of the Chechens in 1944. But the tightened security measures did not prevent rebels from killing five servicemen, including the two killed in the Grozny clash, and wounding nine in a string of attacks Monday.

Troops killed one rebel and captured another during the Grozny skirmish, the government official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Rebels also attacked a police station in the Achkhoi-Martan region, 40 kilometers west of Grozny, and wounded three Chechen policemen, the official said.

Eighteen Chechen policemen have been killed so far this year, including an officer who was attacked in Grozny's central market over the weekend, Itar-Tass reported. Rebels killed more than 100 policemen last year, the news agency said, declaring that militants had "declared a hunt for Chechen policemen."

Journalist Case Delay

MOSCOW (MT) -- The hearing of a defamation lawsuit against a German journalist on Tuesday was adjourned until April 19 after Chelyabinsk law student Mikhail Anishchenko refused to drop his claims against Berlin-based newspaper die Tageszeitung.

Defense lawyer Genri Reznik said the Gagarin district court should not consider Anishchenko's suit because the paper is not distributed in Russia, is not subject to Russian media law and no rulings of the court can be enforced against it. The paper was not represented.

Anishchenko, who represented himself, is claiming 300,000 rubles ($9,700) in damages over an ironic article about President Vladimir Putin's personality cult by die Tageszeitung's Moscow correspondent Klaus-Helge Donath. The article quotes a song Anishchenko wrote about the Russian president.

Moldovan Fired

CHISINAU, Moldova (Reuters) -- Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin on Tuesday axed his education minister whose plan to force schoolchildren to learn Russian brought thousands of young people onto the streets.

Ilie Vancea, who had pressed for Russian to be taught as the compulsory second language in schools, had been moved to another post, Voronin's press service said.

Vancea's plan had sparked two months of nationalist-led street protests by students that had turned into popular demonstrations against the Communist government's pro-Russian policies.

Heroin Gunfight

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (AP) -- Russian border guards stationed in Tajikistan seized about 10 kilograms of heroin after exchanging gunfire with four drug smugglers trying to escape back into Afghanistan, an official said Tuesday.

It was not immediately clear what happened to the suspects, the border guards' press service said. The sack of heroin was believed to have been abandoned during the gunfight.

The four suspected drug smugglers were spotted late Monday night on an island in the Pyandzh River, which forms the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

Space Program

MOSCOW (MT) -- Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who briefed President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday about his trip to the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, said Russia planned to increase its use of the northern launch pad.

"We are firm in our intention to make Plesetsk the main Russian cosmodrome. There is no doubt about that," Ivanov was quoted by Interfax as saying.

Russia will continue to use Baikonur, Kazakhstan, for manned launches, he said.

Ivanov, who has made upgrading the military's space program a priority, traveled to Plesetsk to watch the launch of Russia's first military satellite this year. The Kosmos 2387 blasted into orbit late Monday.

Last week, Ivanov said military satellites were key to the nation's defense, adding that without them the army is "blind and deaf."

Drug Abuse on Rise

MOSCOW (AP) -- Drug abuse among the young and among women is increasing, the Health Ministry's chief drugs expert said Tuesday.

Nikolai Ivanets, director of the ministry's Narcology Institute, said some 230,000 drug addicts per year are hospitalized in Russia, compared to 1 million in the United States.

"The most unpleasant fact is that the drug-using contingent is getting younger and includes more women," he said at a news conference.

However, preliminary information from 2001 indicates that drug abuse is spreading more slowly in Moscow and other major cities than in previous years, Ivanets said. But he said it was too early to determine whether this would be a stable trend.

TB Cases Dropping

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- New cases of tuberculosis are dropping for the first time in years in Russia despite fears of a possible epidemic, health officials said Tuesday.

According to Health Ministry figures, 133,000 new sufferers of TB were diagnosed last year, about 1,000 fewer than in 2000.

Health officials were reported last November as saying a rapid rise in the number of people infected with HIV in Russia could lead to a tuberculosis epidemic.

"Fears of a growth have not been justified," Ruslan Khalfin, a senior health official, told a meeting of Health Ministry officials.