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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Space Chief's Anger

MOSCOW (AP) -- The country's space chief on Wednesday angrily dismissed U.S. claims that some Russian companies have leaked ballistic missile technology to Iran and insisted that government controls blocked any such transfers.

Russian Aviation and Space Agency director Yury Koptev said officials had looked into 14 specific cases of concern to the United States and found no wrongdoing.

"We have proven quite conclusively that these concerns were unfounded," Koptev said at a news conference.

Koptev said he discussed the issue Monday with U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton and urged him to spell out the grievances.

"If there are specific concerns, we are ready to give specific responses, but it's senseless to speak in general terms," Koptev said, claiming that Bolton did not offer any specifics on the alleged missile technology transfers to Iran.

Kazakh Battalion

ALMATY, Kazakhstan (AP) -- Hundreds of Kazakhs have signed up for a peacekeeping battalion in Afghanistan, despite warnings from veterans of the Soviet war there that they risk becoming cannon fodder.

About 500 men are undergoing training for the battalion, officials said this week, about half of them soldiers of the Kazakh special services and the rest of them contract fighters. The battalion's final composition is to be fixed at the end of the training on April 1.

But Kazakhs who fought in Afghanistan during the Soviet Union's decade-long military campaign say being a foreign soldier in Afghanistan isn't worth any amount of money considering the tribal strife that still exists there.

"In the spring, there is a gathering planned of the elders of all the tribes, and it is still not clear whether they will agree to the entry of a peacekeeping contingent," said Sergei Pashkevich, president of the Kazakh Military Brotherhood, a veterans' organization.

Bout Investigation

MOSCOW (AP) -- The Foreign Ministry said Wednesday it had no information about the whereabouts of Viktor Bout, whom Belgian law enforcement officials are investigating for alleged weapons-running to al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Bout is reputed to be the most powerful of the shady merchants who moved weapons from post-communist Eastern Europe to fuel wars in Africa and Afghanistan. Belgian officials said on condition of anonymity that an international arrest warrant would soon be issued for Bout.

Belgian officials said they believed Bout was currently in Russia. But a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said he had "no information for the media," and a representative of the Security Council said Bout's case would not fall under his agency's aegis.

6 Killed in Chechnya

VLADIKAVKAZ, North Ossetia (AP) -- Six federal servicemen were killed over the past day in rebel attacks and clashes in Chechnya, an official of the pro-Kremlin Chechen administration said Wednesday.

Federal warplanes launched a heavy wave of bombing on the Vedeno district, in the southeast of the republic, and artillery shelled suspected rebel positions in five regions, the official said on condition of anonymity.

The commander of the federal military campaign said Wednesday it would continue until the rebels are liquidated.

"I understand the desire to launch production and arrange peaceful production in a condensed period of time, but it is impossible to create favorable conditions for this and resolve Chechnya's other problems without eliminating banditry first," Lieutenant General Vladimir Moltenskoi was quoted by Interfax as saying.

Plane Lost Near Pskov

MOSCOW (AP) -- Search teams fighting heavy snow scoured a northern forest Wednesday for signs of a Su-24 fighter-bomber that went missing during a training flight with two pilots aboard.

"The search has produced no results" as of Wednesday evening, air force spokesman Alexander Drobyshevksy said on ORT television.

Radar contact with the plane was lost Tuesday afternoon when it was flying in the Pskov region near the border with Estonia. Rescue teams began a ground and air search of the region immediately.

For the Record

A brother of the late anti-Taliban commander Ahmed Shah Massood has been appointed Afghanistan's ambassador to Russia, an Afghan Embassy spokesman said Wednesday. Ahmed Ziya Massood was named by the interim government of Prime Minister Hamid Karzai, said embassy spokesman Sakhi Gairat. It was not clear when he would arrive to take up his post, Gairat said. (AP)

Former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov has offered his support at the trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosovic, the Kommersant newspaper reported. Primakov, who was prime minister at the height of the conflict in Kosovo, said that he was willing to testify before the Hague war crimes tribunal in Milosevic's defense, the report said. (MT)