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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Rumsfeld Warning

WASHINGTON (NYT) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issued a warning to Moscow on Wednesday, saying that expanding trade with Iraq would brand Russia a friend of terrorist states and frighten foreign investors away from its capital-staved economy.

"To the extent that Russia decides that it wants to parade its relationships with countries like Iraq and Libya and Syria and Cuba and North Korea, it sends a signal out across the globe that that is what Russia thinks is a good thing to do, to deal with the terrorist states,'' Rumsfeld said.

The decision to deepen economic ties with Iraq, Rumsfeld argued, hurts Russia "because people all across the globe, business people, can make a decision: Where do they want to put a plant? Where do they want to invest?''

Mobster Indicted

NEW YORK (AP) -- A reputed Russian mobster has been indicted in a U.S. court for allegedly helping fix two figure skating events at the Salt Lake City Olympics.

Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, who is fighting extradition from Italy, is accused of arranging a vote swap that helped bring gold medals to the Russian pairs team and the French ice dancing team at the 2002 Winter Games.

The indictment, filed Wednesday, charges Tokhtakhounov with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bribery related to sporting contests, wire fraud, sports bribery and violating the Travel Act, which outlaws using interstate or foreign commerce communication to commit bribery.

If brought to the United States and convicted, Tokhtakhounov could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of five counts filed against him.

Kim's Far East Tour

MOSCOW (AP) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Il visited a pharmaceutical plant, a cable-producing factory and a Russian Orthodox Church on Thursday, the third day of a rail tour advertised as an effort to acquaint him with the opportunities of economic reform.

Chimes pealed as Kim ducked into the St. Bishop Innokenty of Irkutsk church in Khabarovsk. He questioned clergymen about the differences between Orthodoxy and other religions, Itar-Tass and Interfax reported.

Kim also visited Dalkhimfarm, one of the Far East's largest producers of pharmaceuticals, and the Amurkabel cable-producing plant.

Later in the day, Kim departed for Vladivostok, where the Kremlin confirmed he would meet President Vladimir Putin on Friday.

Rebel Leader Dies

MOSCOW (MT) -- The Justice Ministry said Thursday that Chechen warlord Turpal-Ali Atgeriyev, who was sentenced last year to 15 years behind bars, has died in a Yekaterinburg prison, Interfax reported.

Atgeriyev, who served as deputy prime minister in the government of rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov, died of leukemia, the ministry said.

Arrested in Chechnya in August 2001, Atgeriyev was later convicted by Dagestan's Supreme Court of participating in a hostage-taking raid on the Dagestani town of Kizlyar that left 78 people dead in 1996.

Akhmed Kadyrov, the head of Chechnya's pro-Moscow administration, promised Atgeriyev's relatives he would help return his body to Chechnya.

Belarus Protest

MINSK, Belarus (AP) -- A Belarussian opposition group on Wednesday protested a Russian proposal to absorb Belarus, while President Alexander Lukashenko called the plan "insulting."

About 20 members of the Zubr, or Bison, youth movement gathered in a Minsk park, where they unfurled a banner reading "Independent Belarus Lives!" and tore up pictures of President Vladimir Putin.

The group was protesting Putin's suggestion last week that the two countries could swiftly merge, with Russia effectively absorbing its western neighbor.

Lukashenko, previously the main supporter of the union, on Wednesday reiterated his stance that Putin's proposal was unacceptable.

Rocket Launches

MOSCOW (MT) -- Lockheed Martin's newest rocket, the Atlas 5, was successfully launched Wednesday on a mission heralding a new era of heavy-lifting U.S. launch vehicles for next-generation satellites, Reuters reported.

Lockheed Martin has more than $1 billion invested in the rocket, which roared off into hot, mostly clear skies above Cape Canaveral, Florida, bearing a European communications satellite.

The Atlas 5's first-stage engines were built near Moscow by Energia, the same Russian company that builds Soyuz spacecraft and modules for the international space station.

Also Thursday, a Russian Proton-K rocket carrying a U.S. Ecostar satellite blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 9:15 a.m Moscow time, Interfax and Itar-Tass reported, citing the Russian Space Forces.

For the Record

A soldier armed with an assault rifle deserted his unit near the southern city of Rostov-on-Don on Thursday, the press service of the North Caucasus military district said. (AP)

A gas explosion ripped through a hostel in western Siberia on Thursday, killing at least six people, including two children, a spokeswoman for the Emergency Situations Ministry said. About 10 people were in the hostel in the Khanty-Mansiisk region at the time of the blast, she said. (Reuters)