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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Council of Europe

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) -- The Council of Europe on Tuesday welcomed progress on human rights in Russia but said the country must take steps to ensure freedom of expression, movement and religion, reform its prosecutor's office and Federal Security Service, and improve prison conditions.

The Council's Parliamentary Assembly monitoring committee also urged Russia to settle the conflict in Chechnya by peaceful means.

State Duma deputies on Wednesday accused European counterparts of ignoring improvements in Chechnya and relying on biased reports about the war-shattered province from the United States and nongovernmental groups, The Associated Press reported.

Kaliningrad Promise

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- European Commission President Romano Prodi promised Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on Wednesday the European Union will try and settle the dispute over the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad ahead of its eastward expansion.

Following bilateral talks at EU headquarters, Prodi said he made a commitment "to solve it in a quick way," and certainly before the EU plans its next round of enlargement in 2004.

Russia wants open access between Russia and Kaliningrad.

Robbers Nabbed

MOSCOW (MT) -- Police have captured the burglars who stole $220,000 worth of money, jewelry and ancient coins from an expat's house on Novinsky Bulvar last week, Moskovsky Komsomolets reported.

Police arrested Svetlana, 28, who had been working as a housekeeper at the apartment of the victim, American citizen Andrew Awad, the general director of engineering company Lockwood Green Inc. She had given the apartment key to her brother Nikolai, 16, who had stolen a safe containing the valuables from the apartment.

All the stolen goods have been returned to the victim after being recovered from their hiding place -- the grave of the thieves' grandmother.

Chemical Weapons

MOSCOW (AP) -- The Foreign Ministry criticized the U.S.-led ouster of the head of the world's chemical weapons regulatory agency and defended Jose Bustani's performance.

Bustani was dismissed Monday at a meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague, Netherlands, after the United States successfully rallied members to remove him.

"Russia spoke out against replacing Bustani, and considers that he did a great deal toward solving issues of prohibiting and destroying chemical weapons," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said Tuesday in a statement released Wednesday.

For the Record

Georgia plans to send a high-level delegation to the separatist region of Abkhazia to work on reducing escalating tensions, President Eduard Shevardnadze said Tuesday. (AP)

Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri leaves for Russia on Saturday on a visit that comes ahead of new talks between Iraq and the United Nations expected to focus on the return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Wednesday that bilateral relations will be the main topic for Sabri's talks with Russian officials. (AP)