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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

U.S. Commitment

MOSCOW (MT) -- The United States gave Russia a formal commitment Friday that it will not set up permanent military bases in Central Asia, Reuters reported.

A joint statement issued after a day of U.S.-Russian talks on Afghanistan in Washington said: "They agreed that long-term peace, stability and prosperity is … critical for Central Asia as a whole and on the importance of seeking a regional approach to the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

"The American side emphasized that the U.S. does not seek to establish permanent military bases in Central Asia."

On Saturday, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said the lingering presence of NATO forces in Central Asia for anti-terror operations pose a security threat to Russia, The Associated Press reported.

The new forces in Central Asia mark "a penetration of a strategic region that undermines the security not only of Russia, but also of China and a number of Arab countries," Zyuganov said in St. Petersburg.

Bombers 'Known'

MOSCOW (MT) -- The Federal Security Service knows the identity of those involved in the Moscow apartment building bombings in 1999 and the Pushkin Square blast in 2000, a top FSB official said last week.

"All the persons involved in the terrorist attacks are known," Viktor Zakharov, the head of FSB directorate for Moscow and the Moscow region, told RTR television. "Some of them were detained and brought to justice, and some are being actively searched for."

The FSB statement came after exiled tycoon and former Kremlin insider Boris Berezovsky repeated his claim last month that the FSB was itself behind the bombings.

Amber Room

MOSCOW (AP) -- The restored Amber Room, the most famous piece of trophy art looted from Russia during World War II, will open to the public next year on St. Petersburg's 300th anniversary, St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev said Thursday.

"The opening of the Amber Room will be among the brightest events of the celebrations" beginning May 31, 2003, Yakovlev said, Interfax reported.

The Amber Room is being restored in Tsarskoye Selo outside St. Petersburg, where it was installed by Peter the Great in the palace built for his wife, Catherine I.

Retreating Nazi troops looted the palace and the panels were moved to a castle in Koenigsberg, now Kaliningrad in Russia. They disappeared in 1945, and Germany returned them to Russia two years ago.

Lawsuit Declined

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) -- Sweden's highest court has declined to hear a lawsuit filed against companies involved in the 1994 Estonia ferry disaster, ending a six-year struggle by victims' relatives to have the question resolved in court.

"I believe this was the last possibility of finding out what happened when the Estonia sank," Mats Wikner, a lawyer for one of the relatives, said of Wednesday's decision by the 16-member Supreme Court.

The passenger ferry went down in stormy waters off the Finnish coast on Sept. 28, 1994, killing 852 people, many of them Swedes.

The case landed at the Supreme Court after lower courts said the relatives, who were parents of victims, were not entitled to compensation according to Swedish maritime law.

The Supreme Court did not say why it decided not to hear the case, but the decision is final.

Hijacker Kills Father

SANTA MONICA, California (Reuters) -- A Lithuanian man who as a teenager hijacked a Soviet commercial jetliner in 1970 with his father is scheduled to be arraigned in California on Monday on charges of killing his 77-year-old father during an argument, authorities said.

Albert Victor White, 46, also known as Algirdas Brazinskas, was charged Friday with bludgeoning Pranas Brazinskas to death Tuesday in Santa Monica, the Santa Monica police department said.

The father and son hijacked a Soviet Aeroflot domestic jetliner in 1970. A flight attendant was shot to death and other crew members wounded before the plane landed in Turkey, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

Zero Gravity

MOSCOW (AP) -- Would-be space tourists could get a feel for zero gravity before a full mission under a new Russian design for a rocket launched from a fighter jet that would carry them 130 kilometers into space.

The three-person craft would be attached to the bottom of a MiG 31-S fighter for its initial climb, then its two-ton rocket would ignite to blast it into space, Gennady Malyshev, head of the Astra Center of the Moscow Aviation Institute, told Itar-Tass. During the fallback, passengers would experience weightlessness for about three minutes and also pictures could be taken of them with Earth in the background, he said.

The report gave no indication as to when the new craft could go into production.

For the Record

Fatherland, the once-powerful political movement of Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, convened Saturday to disband itself in order to join forces with the pro-Kremlin Unity party. (AP)

A volcano has begun spouting ash and smoke over an island in the Far East, north of Japan, an Earth Physics Institute official said Friday. Yevgeny Rogozhin, the institute's deputy head, said the activity by the Chikurachki Volcano on the scarcely populated northern Kuril island of Paramushir was expected to last several days, and no major explosions or strong earthquakes were likely to occur. (AP)

President Vladimir Putin met Friday with Angela Merkel, the head of the key German opposition party, the Christian Democratic Union, to discuss bilateral relations between the important partners ahead of German elections in September. (AP)

Dozens of companies and thousands of residents of North Ossetia regained electricity Saturday after power was cut off when 1,600 meters of wire were stolen from a high-voltage line. Electricity went out in the republic Friday after the theft in the outskirts of the capital, Vladikavkaz, Itar-Tass reported. (AP)