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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

OSCE Head Expelled

MINSK, Belarus (Reuters) -- Belarus on Monday gave the man heading the OSCE mission 24 hours to leave after refusing to extend his visa, the latest in a series of skirmishes between the human rights group and President Alexander Lukashenko.

Lukashenko has been at odds with the 55-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe since it denounced his re-election in September 2001 as fraudulent.

The Foreign Ministry declined to extend a visa for Andrew Carpenter, acting head of the OSCE mission since his predecessor was given 24 hours to leave the country in April. Also in April, an OSCE special representative was barred entry.

Ministry spokesman Pavel Latushko said the decision meant Carpenter had to leave Belarus on Tuesday. After Carpenter leaves Minsk, the OSCE will have only two diplomats left in its mission.

Shevardnadze Routed

TBILISI, Georgia (Reuters) -- Voters in Georgia dealt a hard blow to President Eduard Shevardnadze over the weekend, wiping his party out of local councils in the capital, Tbilisi, and other key cities, early results showed Monday.

"These elections were a demonstration of strength played out between opposition parties," said independent analyst David Kipiani of the Society for Fair Elections and Democracy.

"Even before the elections, we predicted that the party backing the president wouldn't win."

In the capital, only about 1 percent of voters backed the pro-Shevardnadze Citizens' Union Party. Two left-leaning parties led, winning about 25 percent each, and four other parties cleared the 4 percent threshold to win city council seats.

Concessions Denial

MOSCOW (AP) -- Countering hard-line critics, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Monday that Moscow hasn't compromised its security interests in a nuclear deal with Washington and new alliance with NATO.

"I regard as unfounded the claims that we have made concessions," Ivanov told reporters, the Interfax-Military News Agency reported. "We did not give up anything," he said, referring to the nuclear arms accord signed by U.S. President George W. Bush and President Vladimir Putin during their summit in Russia last month.

"We do not need the nuclear parity of Cold War times with the United States," Ivanov said when asked whether the Russian military's plan to make even deeper cuts -- down to 1,500 warheads -- would put Russia at a disadvantage.

6 Killed in Chechnya

VLADIKAVKAZ, North Ossetia (AP) -- Federal forces in Chechnya have lost at least six servicemen killed in a recent spate of attacks, officials said Monday.

At least three federal troops have been killed in rebel shellings of Russian outposts throughout Chechnya since Sunday, said an official with the Kremlin-appointed civilian administration for Chechnya who asked his name be withheld.

Also Sunday, two soldiers died in explosions of land mines planted by rebels, and another serviceman was killed in a skirmish in the southern village of Mesker-Yurt, the official said.

FSB Man Goes to TV

MOSCOW (MT) -- Alexander Zdanovich, a longtime spokesman for the Federal Security Service, or FSB, has been appointed deputy head of VGTRK, the state-run radio and television broadcasting company that runs RTR television, Interfax reported Monday.

Zdanovich, a general in the FSB, was sent to Chechnya many times during the second campaign in the breakaway region.

He will be in charge of security issues at VGTRK, Interfax reported, citing the company's press service.

Annan Stresses AIDS

KIEV (AP) -- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called fighting escalating rates of HIV infection and better alleviation of the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear accident his top priorities for Ukraine on Monday.

"Over the past two decades, AIDS has spread to every corner of the earth. The fight against this epidemic has become one of the great challenges of our times. It is one of the top priorities of the United Nations and of me personally," Annan said after meeting with Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma.

Annan made HIV-AIDS a focus of his visit to Kiev because of Ukraine's "alarming rates of infection," according to Fred Eckhard, Annan's spokesman.

With more than 400,000 cases of HIV or AIDS, Ukraine has one of the highest rates of infection in the former Soviet Union.

Annan praised Kuchma for his government's "essential leadership" in response to the crisis, but emphasized the need for greater public awareness and improved care and prevention measures.

Citizenship Law

MOSCOW (AP) -- President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed a government-proposed bill making it more difficult to obtain citizenship.

The law requires applicants to spend at least five years in Russia, pass a Russian-language exam and have a job to receive citizenship. It also demands that applicants reject the citizenship of other nations to become Russian citizens. The previous law required only a three-year residence and no language testing.

Putin, speaking at a meeting with Cabinet members Monday, said the new law should "regulate immigration in the interests of the Russian citizen but, at the same time, not shut the door on our ethnic kin."

For the Record

Authorities arrested a suspect, who was not identified, in connection with a Molotov cocktail attack that killed Major General Vitaly Gamov, chief of the Coast Guard on the Pacific island of Sakhalin, and severely injured his wife, officials said Monday. (AP)

The prime minister of the southern republic of Dagestan, Khizri Shikhsaidov, was injured in a car crash Saturday that killed five other people, a duty officer at Dagestan's Emergency Situations Ministry said Monday. (AP)

Six Muscovites drowned in the city's rivers and ponds over the weekend, Interfax reported Monday, citing emergency services. Two more drowning swimmers survived and were hospitalized. (MT)