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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

UN Secures Toxins



VIENNA, Austria (Reuters) -- The United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency said Monday it had completed a mission to Georgia to recover two containers filled with deadly radioactive material and has stored them at a safe location.

The December discovery of the titanium-based ceramic containers in Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region renewed fears, in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, that nuclear material could fall into the hands of people who would use it to make crude bombs.

"The team we had there, along with the Georgian authorities, have recovered the sources and safely contained and secured them at a storage site," said Lothar Wedekind, spokesman for the international Atomic Energy Agency.

The agency said the radioactive strontium-90 material in the fist-sized containers cannot be used to make even a crude nuclear bomb.




Nuclear Rockets



MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia is deploying its advanced Topol-M ballistic missiles in its fleet of nuclear submarines, a senior general said, signalling a shift in military tactics.

General Yury Baluyevsky, first deputy chief of the General Staff, said in the weekend edition of Tribuna newspaper that priority was being given to sea-launched rather than land-based Topols.

The rockets have a range of more than 10,000 kilometers and have been designed to defeat the sort of missile defense systems that the United States is planning to build -- in the teeth of Russian opposition.

The Defense Ministry declined to comment on the report.

The first 10 Topol rockets were deployed in the Saratov region in 1998, and six to 10 more deployed in each of the subsequent two years. Cash constraints meant there was no funding for more last year.




Death Penalty Debate



MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia would be committing a grave mistake if it reintroduced the death penalty, Anatoly Pristavkin, the former head of a Presidential Pardons Commission, said Monday.

Pristavkin, now an adviser to President Vladimir Putin, said the judicial system lacks the independence to safeguard the rights of suspects facing the death penalty.

"Politics would play a more important role than the law," Pristavkin was quoted by Interfax as saying.

"A lot of judicial mistakes are committed" in Russia, he said.

He said many judges lack the skills necessary to preside over such serious cases.

Pristavkin said he feared that if voters would still overwhelmingly support the reintroduction of the death penalty.




Sharansky on Iran



MOSCOW (AP) -- Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky on Monday called on Russia to rethink its policy toward Iran and expressed hope that Moscow would take a harsher line toward Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Sharansky, who arrived in Moscow on Monday for a two-day visit, said Israel was concerned about "technology leaks" from Russia to Iran, which he said was bent on destroying the Jewish state.

"Russia must again and again check its policy toward Iran," Sharansky said. "We have been holding a long dialogue on this subject with Russia. There have been improvements in this dialogue. … Realistically, a lot more could be done."

Concerns about Russia's relations with Iran center on Russia's $800 billion deal to help complete Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant.




Iraqi Warns U.S.



MOSCOW (AP) -- Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan warned the United States that its "dirty" policies could prompt retaliation even worse than the Sept. 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington, according to an interview published Monday in the Russian daily Vremya Novostei.

Ramadan reasserted that Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks. But he railed against what he called "unjust" U.S. foreign policy.

"Since Sept. 11, they [Americans] have further strengthened the course that led to the events in New York and Washington, their policies have become even more dirty," Ramadan said. "If things continue like this, I believe that America will draw an even stronger backfire."




Caucasus Avalanche



MOSCOW (AP) -- Rescuers on cross-country skis fought through a snowstorm Monday to reach 24 people trapped for four days on a Caucasus Mountain pass in southern Russia after a snow avalanche.

All 24 were unharmed, Emergencies Ministry spokeswoman Irina Andrianova said. The rescuers joined them with food and medicines in a roadside construction worker's hut.

A helicopter was on standby to retrieve them but was grounded because of winds and snow, Andrianova said. Snow-clearing machines were working their way up the pass.

The 24 people had been in five cars traveling through the pass when the Jan. 31 snowstorm hit. Emergency officials were alerted to their location only Saturday, when one of the group was able to reach them by radio phone, Andrianova said.




Septuagenarian Bust



DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (AP) -- A 72-year-old man with 400 grams of heroin in his stomach was detained Saturday at Dushanbe airport while attempting to board a flight to Russia, officials said.

The alleged narcotics courier was checking in for a flight from Dushanbe to Samara in central Russia when he was detained by Tajik police, Itar-Tass reported.

The man had swallowed the heroin, which was packed in 50 mini-containers, police said.

Over the past week, law enforcement agencies in Tajikistan detained 30 narcotics couriers and confiscated more than 20 kilograms of heroin.




For the Record



A Moscow city court resumed hearings Monday into the case of five skinheads charged with hate attacks last April. One of the defendants stands accused of urging over 200 youths to punish merchants from the Caucasus, Interfax reported. (MT)

Two paratroopers deserted their base in the Volga River city of Ulyanovsk early Monday, commandeered a vehicle and fired on traffic policemen who tried to stop them, killing three people, Colonel Nikolai Bragin, a spokesman for the Airborne Troops, said on ORT television. (AP)