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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Georgia Blasts Russia

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) -- Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze on Monday lashed out against Russia for granting citizenship to Abkhaz residents, calling it akin to an annexation of that part of the country.

Shevardnadze told journalists at his regular news conference that more than 50,000 residents had been given Russian citizenship.

"What is that called? Either annexation or justification for annexation," he said.

Abkhazia won de facto independence in 1993 after routing Georgian government troops in a two-year war. Russian peacekeepers have been deployed in Abkhazia since 1994.

Meanwhile, Shevardnadze denied that Russia would assist in anti-terrorist operations in the Pankisi Gorge, a lawless region bordering Chechnya where U.S.-trained Georgian troops are planning operations. Officials acknowledged last week that they were having problems getting enough soldiers to sign up for the training program, with only 100 applicants for 500 spots.

Vladimir Rushailo, the secretary of Russia's Security Council, was expected Tuesday in Georgia for a visit, but Shevardnadze said it was just a routine consultation with his Georgian counterpart and had nothing to do with potential cooperation in the Pankisi Gorge.

Anti-Semitic Sign

MOSCOW (AP) -- An anti-Semitic sign exploded Monday when two passers-by tried to remove it from the side of a highway in the Siberian region of Tomsk, in the latest of a series of copycat crimes in which such signs have been erected across Russia.

RTR television reported that the men who removed the signs did not require hospitalization. The sign had been rigged with a hand grenade to explode when removed.

The first such incident occurred in May. A woman suffered burns and eye injuries when she tried to remove an anti-Semitic sign placed on Kievskoye Shosse outside Moscow and it exploded.

On Thursday, police sappers in Vladivostok removed an anti-Semitic sign from a roadside and blew up suspicious-looking sacks that were wired to the poster. The sacks contained fake bombs carved out of wood.

No Force on Iraq

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia underscored its opposition Monday to armed intervention in Iraq, praising recent talks between United Nations and Iraqi officials as making progress despite the lack of an agreement on a return of arms inspectors.

"The Iraqi problem can be resolved only through a political and diplomatic process in compliance with resolutions of the UN Security Council," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "Any other options, particularly the use of force, are absolutely unacceptable."

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan failed at a meeting last week in Vienna, Austria, to get Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri to agree to the return of arms inspectors, who have been barred from Iraq for 3 1/2 years.

Ivanov on U.S.

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the international community's main task was to persuade the United States to stop acting on its own.

Ivanov, interviewed on ORT television Sunday night, said Russia had been motivated by a desire to draw Washington into international consultation when it pressed for signature of a new treaty reducing strategic nuclear arsenals at a May summit.

He said the problem of Washington acting alone had begun long before U.S. moves last week to restrict the scope of the new International Criminal Court, which is backed by Washington's allies in Western Europe.

"This is a reflection of a certain section of the elite of the United States which believes that today the United States can act in any way it wishes without taking into consideration its international obligations," Ivanov told a discussion panel on the "Vremena" program. "The task of Russian diplomacy and the international community -- because the vast majority of countries share our position -- is to persuade the political elite of the United States that it is in their own interests to take part collectively and in solidarity in solving current problems."

Cafe Changes Name

MOSCOW (MT) -- Following requests from local authorities, the Putin cafe in the Ural Mountains city of Chelyabinsk has changed its name, Interfax reported Monday.

Both the district administration, police and local office of the presidential envoy demanded that the two students who run the cafe remove Putin's portrait, name and changed the names of dishes on the menu.

"It's an ethical question," said the federal inspector for the Chelyabinsk region, Valery Tretyakov. "The entrepreneurs had to ask for Putin's consent."

One of the owners, Yevgenia Borishpolskaya, said she plans to appeal to Putin and perhaps go to court, Interfax reported.

Party Disbands

MOSCOW (MT) -- Following a merger with Mikhail Gorbachev's Russian United Social-Democratic Party, another tiny party -- the Russian Party of Social Democracy headed by Samara Governor Konstantin Titov and Gorbachev's perestroika-era associate Alexander Yakovlev -- announced its dissolution Saturday.

Although the merger was agreed last November, both parties waited until the Justice Ministry registered the new body to disband. The new party is the Social-Democratic Party of Russia.

Cow Herders Killed

VLADIKAVKAZ, North Ossetia (AP) -- Two men trying to round up missing cattle in Ingushetia were killed when they stepped on anti-tank mines near the border with Chechnya, authorities said Monday.

Police said the bodies of the men, aged 18 and 38, were found near craters and shrapnel left by the blasts, Itar-Tass reported. Two other mines were found nearby and detonated safely, it said. The report did not say when the men were killed.

Meanwhile, military officials in Chechnya claimed federal forces had killed a rebel field commander who was known as Khaled and who they said was a subordinate of an Arab warlord, Abu al-Valid, the Interfax-Military News Agency reported.

In Moscow, a delegation from the Council of Europe was to arrive Monday for talks with Russian officials about Chechnya, Itar-Tass said.