Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Vendor Killed

MOSCOW (MT) -- An Azeri street vendor was beaten to death Friday in a clash with men whom witnesses described as off-duty police officers.

Fuad Mamedov, 61, had an argument with drunken men who urinated on his kiosk, which led to a fight, the Izvestia newspaper reported Saturday, citing an official in the Azerbaijan Embassy.

Police officers called by a witness checked the documents of the men and allowed them to go. The men then dragged Mamedov into the yard of a nearby office of the Moscow police guard service and killed him by hitting him on the head with a hammer, the report said.

About 50 Mamedov's compatriots staged a rally near his dead body, calling for a stop to racially motivated attacks, and police had to use force to take Mamedov's body from the crowd, Interfax reported.

"Incidents with this kind of outcome have occurred before, but the fact that it came from the police … evokes even greater concern," Zeinal Nagdaliyev, the head of the All-Russia Azerbaijani Congress, told TVS television on Friday.

Moscow police said two of the attackers were detained and their affiliation to the police was being checked, Izvestia reported.

Andrei Atarshchikov, the prosecutor of the Tagansky district where Mamedov was killed, told Interfax on Saturday that a criminal investigation was opened. But he dismissed racial motives behind the murder, saying it was a common conflict.

Far East Bribery

MOSCOW (AP) -- Local government officials in the Far East have pocketed billions of dollars in bribes in exchange for jobs and education, a high-ranking official said Saturday.

Konstantin Pulikovsky, the presidential envoy to the Far East Federal District, said a report on NTV television news that local officials had accepted up to $40 billion in bribes -- nearly half of Russia's budget -- was "practically confirmed."

"It's hard for me to believe these figures, but it's impossible not to accept them," Pulikovsky said in a telephone interview with NTV.

Cemetery Vandalism

MOSCOW (MT) -- The Penyaginskoye cemetery near the Mitino district, where German prisoners of war were buried, has been vandalized, reported Friday.

About 140 headstones were pulled out of the ground and most of them smashed to pieces, presumably by sledgehammers. After World War II, German POWs were used as construction workers in Moscow.

At the request of the German Embassy, the Foreign Ministry promised to investigate the case and restore the destroyed headstones, said.

Vnukovo Missiles

MOSCOW (AP) -- A cache of missiles found near Vnukovo Airport couldn't have been used to hit a target without a special launching pad operated by an experienced specialist, news reports said Friday. The five missiles were discovered Thursday in a cemetery near the airport, which is regularly used by government officials.

Police suspect the weapons were stolen from a military depot for sale to criminal groups. The missiles are unguided and can be used to hit targets from helicopters only, the Emergency Situations Ministry said.

Putin-Bush Call

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. President George W. Bush and President Vladimir Putin agreed in a telephone conversation that they should maintain their effort to pull India and Pakistan back from the brink of war.

Bush and Putin touched on the South Asian conflict during a 20-minute telephone conversation Thursday. "President Bush and President Putin agreed to continue mutual efforts to de-escalate tensions between India and Pakistan," a White House statement said.

Kaspiisk Death Toll

MAKHACHKALA, Dagestan (AP) -- A man wounded in last month's bomb blast in the Caspian Sea port of Kaspiisk has died, bringing the death toll from the attack to 43, an official said Friday. The latest victim died May 29 from his injuries, said Gadzhi Gadzhialiyev, a health official in Dagestan.

The Kaspiisk explosion ripped through a crowd of people taking part in a May 9 military parade in honor of Victory Day.

Ignalina Closure

VILNIUS, Lithuania (Reuters) -- Lithuania said Friday it would agree to European Union demands to shut its Soviet-built nuclear power plant in 2009, which would remove its biggest obstacle to membership in the bloc.

The agreement to close the Ignalina nuclear power plant, which produces over 70 percent of Lithuania's electricity, comes even though the EU has not yet finalized what financial support it will give to the closure costs.

"If solidarity is lacking, there will be no closure in 2009," the government said. It said the EU accepted its estimate of the decommissioning costs, but it did not name that figure.

The EU considers the two-reactor facility unsafe, as it shares the same design as Ukraine's disastrous Chernobyl plant.

Saving Toads

HAADEMEESTE, Estonia (AP) -- Estonian firemen, often heralded for their bravery, are now winning accolades for a less conventional sort of rescue operation: saving toads.

Firetrucks in Estonia, which is suffering a two-month drought, have been delivering eight tons of water daily to several breeding ponds of the endangered natterjack toad, officials said Friday.

The operation is focusing on some 15,000 tadpoles that will die if the small sandpit reservoirs dry up, said Mati Kose, an adviser with the environmental ministry.

The greenish brown toad, the size of a fist, is celebrated here for its high metallic croak that can be heard kilometers away. Kose said many Estonians in rural areas were nostalgic about the sound, associating it with their childhood. The adult toads already have been gathered up with spoons and glass jars and moved to wetter areas. But the tadpoles can't be transported until they mature and can survive out of the water, Kose said.