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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

NATO Relations

MOSCOW (AP) -- If NATO is serious about building a new, closer relationship with Russia, it should allow Moscow to help make and enforce decisions and not just offer cosmetic changes, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Monday.

If a new mechanism is created to involve Russia more in the alliance, "It should be not just a consulting or deliberative body, but a truly acting body, which makes decisions, adopts decisions and jointly carries them out," Ivanov told reporters in the State Duma.

NATO's assistant secretary general for political affairs, G?nther Altenburg, met in Moscow on Monday with Deputy Foreign Minister Yevgeny Gusarov for the latest round of talks on the new relationship. No results of the talks were immediately available.

Military Wages Plan

MOSCOW (AP) -- President Vladimir Putin ordered his Cabinet on Monday to draw up a detailed plan for raising military wages, part of the Kremlin's effort to improve conditions in the underfunded and demoralized armed forces.

A law passed last year on Putin's initiative envisaged that officers' pay would be increased by 30 percent to 90 percent, depending on their rank, starting from July. Putin's order Monday obliged the Cabinet to work out all the specifics relating to the wage hikes by the beginning of May, the presidential press service reported.

Group Defends Pasko

VLADIVOSTOK, Far East (AP) -- The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists on Monday called the treason conviction for military journalist Grigory Pasko unjust and embarrassing to Russia.

Terry Anderson, the committee's vice chairman and a former Associated Press correspondent who was held hostage for seven years in Lebanon, told a news conference in Vladivostok that Pasko's imprisonment was "unjust, cruel and wrong."

The Committee to Protect Journalists is lobbying international lending organizations to limit aid to Russia to protest the Pasko case, Alexander Lupis, the group's program coordinator for Europe and Central Asia, said Monday.

Arms Cut Differences

MOSCOW (AP) -- Many differences must be worked out before Russia and the United States can finalize a deal on nuclear arms cuts, including disagreements about how to monitor the reductions, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Monday ahead of a visit to Washington.

"There is full mutual understanding on the principal positions of the future document. But there are differences over concrete control mechanisms," Ivanov was quoted by Interfax as saying during a visit to the northern port of Severomorsk.

Ivanov is to travel to the United States on March 11-14.

Kursk to Be Moved

MOSCOW (AP) -- The carcass of the Kursk nuclear submarine will be taken to a dismantling plant next month and will be scrapped by the end of the year, shipyard officials said Monday.

Captain Vadim Churikov, director of the Defense Ministry's 82nd ship repair plant, was quoted by Interfax as saying the Kursk would be removed from the floating dock in the northern city of Roslyakovo in April and moved to the Nerpa plant.

Nerpa director Pavel Steblin said the painstaking processing of taking apart the submarine would be finished by the end of the year.

Georgia Conciliatory

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) -- Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze sought Monday to assuage Russian anger at his cooperation with U.S. anti-terrorist forces, but warned Russia against recognizing Georgian separatists.

Shevardnadze said in a radio interview that he trusts President Vladimir Putin, who said last week he would support a U.S.-led anti-terrorist operation in Georgia despite grumbling from Russian officials who see it as an invasion of Moscow's traditional sphere of influence. But he urged the State Duma to back down from threats to recognize two breakaway Georgian provinces, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as independent.

Plane Bomb Scare

MOSCOW (AP) -- A passenger plane carrying 214 people abruptly cut short a flight and returned to its departure point on Sakhalin after receiving a bomb threat, emergency officials said Monday. No explosives were found and all aboard were unharmed.

The Il-96 was bound for Moscow when it took off Sunday afternoon from the airport in the Far East city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, a duty officer at the regional emergencies department said. Shortly into the flight, the crew was warned there could be a bomb on board, the duty officer said. He would not elaborate on how the threat was passed on and would not give his name.

The pilots decided to return to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and landed there safely, the officer said. The plane was examined for explosives and found to be safe.

2 Smugglers Killed

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (AP) -- Two suspected heroin smugglers were killed in a clash with Russian border guards as they tried to cross from Afghanistan into Tajikistan, officials said Monday.

The two men tried to breach a section of the frontier guarded by the Russian-led Moskovsky border guard unit late Sunday night and opened fire when the guards ordered them to stop, the border guard press service said. The officers returned fire. The smugglers' bodies were later found at the site of the clash, together with 500 grams of heroin and an automatic rifle, the press service said.

Composer Honored

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) -- A Russian composer and a South African singer were named this year's winners of the 2 million kronor ($190,000) Polar Music Prize on Monday.

Sofia Gubaidulina, who was born in Kazan, and Johannesburg-born vocalist Miriam Makeba will share the prize in equal parts. Gubaidulina, 70, who has been active as a composer since 1963, was awarded because her "intensely expressive and deeply personal musical idiom has the ability to speak to an ever-growing audience of listeners all over the world," the academy said.

The annual prize was founded in 1989 to honor exceptional and lifetime achievements in music. It will be presented by King Carl XVI Gustaf on May 27.