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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Ivanov Tours Asia

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's newly appointed foreign minister, Yoriko Kawaguchi, was pressed into diplomatic duty Saturday, when she met with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov for the latest round of talks on a decades-old territorial dispute between Russia and Japan over four of the Kuril chain of islands.

Kawaguchi and Ivanov agreed that vice ministers from the two countries would meet in Moscow in March for "substantial and concrete" discussions of their competing claims to the four small islands off Japan's northern coast that were seized by Soviet forces at the end of World War II, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said.

Later Saturday, Ivanov flew to New Delhi for two days of talks with Indian leaders. He was to meet Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh and Defense Minister George Fernandes for talks that were likely to focus on tensions between India and Pakistan.

Ivanov will leave New Delhi for Kabul on Monday, where he will meet with Afghanistan's interim prime minister, Hamid Karzai.

New Kursk Plans

MOSCOW (AP) -- As investigators continued to search through the wreckage of the Kursk nuclear submarine, a senior Cabinet member said Friday that the government has worked out a plan to raise some of its fragments that have remained on the Barents Sea floor.

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov said the operation to lift selected fragments of the Kursk's front section would be carried out by the navy between May and August. "We will raise those fragments, including some big ones, which could help explain the Kursk's sinking," Klebanov said on NTV television.

Klebanov said that the navy would also take the necessary measures to prevent the fragments that will remain on the sea bed from posing a threat to shipping and rich fishing grounds in the area.

Death Penalty Debate

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- A public debate over the future of the death penalty heated up Friday when Justice Minister Yury Chaika said it should be scrapped, while a regional governor said the murder rate showed it ought to be kept.

Echoing President Vladimir Putin, who favors abolition, Chaika said he opposed reinstating capital punishment -- on hold since 1996. "Life imprisonment is the best option [for serious crimes]," he was quoted by Itar-Tass as saying.

But Alexander Tkachev, governor of the southern Krasnodar region, speaking after the murder of two local officials, said talk of scrapping the death penalty was "premature in today's Russia."

The opposing views foreshadowed a potentially emotional debate when the State Duma decides in March on whether to make good on Russia's pledges to the Council of Europe to scrap capital punishment altogether.

For the Record

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said Saturday he had agreed to extend the mandate of Russian peacekeepers in the breakaway region of Abkhazia until July 1. (Reuters)

British coastguards rescued 16 Russian crew members on board a cargo ship off the soutwestern coast of England on Saturday. The sailors were airlifted off the Kodima, registered in Malta, while two tugs tried to keep the ship from sinking. (AP)

More than 5.6 million foreigners are living illegally in Russia after overstaying their visas, a Kremlin official said Friday. Millions more entered the country illegally without a visa and continue to reside in Russia, evading taxes and civic duties, Itar-Tass quoted Viktor Ivanov, deputy chief of President Vladimir Putin's administration, as saying. (AP)

Russian border guards in Tajikistan reported hearing five hours of gunfire across the border in Afghanistan early Friday, an official said. The shooting took place about 3 kilometers from the Tajik border near the Pyandzh border post, said the headquarters chief, Major General Sergei Zhilkin. (AP)

Rescue workers were searching Sunday for a missing border-guard helicopter with three crew aboard in the Caucasus region after it lost communication with ground controllers. The Mi-24 helicopter had been flying from Vladikavkaz to Tuskhoroi when controllers lost touch, said Colonel Yury Miroshnichenko, duty officer in the southern district office of the Emergency Situations Ministry. (AP)