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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Missile Defense Plan

MOSCOW (AP) -- A top military official said Wednesday that Moscow was ready to cooperate with Washington on building a shield against ballistic missiles.

"Russia is ready to cooperate with the United States in the field of missile defense on an equal basis," Colonel-General Yury Baluyevsky, first deputy chief of the General Staff said, according to Itar-Tass and the Interfax-Military News Agency.

Baluyevsky, who was accompanying Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on a visit to Washington, said Russia and the United States would make sure that any data on missile defense they may exchange "never get into the hands of third nations."

He added such cooperation may help Russia develop technologies in which the United States has an edge, while some Russian know-how may advance U.S. works in the field.

At the same time, Baluyevsky expressed skepticism about the U.S. ability to build reliable defenses against ballistic missiles. "I don't think a strategic missile defense system capable of intercepting at least a separate nuclear warhead with a 100 percent guarantee can be created before 2010-15," Baluyevsky said.

Tokhtakhounov Trial

ROME (AP) -- The lawyer for a reputed Russian mobster accused of fixing figure skating results at the Olympics said Thursday that a request seeking the extradition of his client to the United States had arrived in Italy.

The lawyer, Luca Saldarelli, said that extradition hearings may not begin for several more weeks.

Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, 52, is being held in a Venice prison on U.S. charges that he helped secure a gold medal for Russia in the pairs competition at the Salt Lake City Games in exchange for a victory by the French ice dancing team.

"It's too early to say," Saldarelli said when asked about the probability of his client being extradited.

Court and police officials in Venice were unavailable to comment on the case Thursday, although Italian tax police in Venice have said in the past that the investigation into Tokhtakhounov is based largely on phone conversations recorded during a wider mafia investigation.

Saldarelli said he hopes that an appeal to a high court in Rome challenging Tokhtakhounov's arrest will delay the proceedings.

Ivanov on Baltics

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia is concerned that NATO membership for the Baltic states could open a potentially dangerous "legal gray zone" because the three states are not signatories to the agreement regulating the deployment of conventional weapons in Europe, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said.

He also said that Russia might reconsider military limitations it had taken unilaterally in the Baltic region, Interfax reported Thursday.

Ivanov dismissed claims that Russia was frightened by the prospect of its neighbors' joining NATO.

"Only one legal or treaty aspect of NATO expansion concerns us: accession of the Baltic states, which are not signatories to the adapted Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe," Ivanov was quoted as saying Wednesday in Washington.

The 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe treaty was a key check on Cold War military buildup. The treaty was amended in November 1999 to permit Russia to deploy more equipment on its northern and southern borders. The Baltic states were not parties to the CFE treaty.

Starovoitova Suspects

MOSCOW (MT) -- Police investigators have identified the suspected killers of prominent State Duma Deputy Galina Starovoitova and Deputy St. Petersburg Mayor Mikhail Manevich, Interfax reported Thursday.

Mikhail Nikiforov, the deputy head of the criminal police department of the Interior Ministry, named two suspects in Manevich's case, but said they had been killed immediately after Manevich's shooting on a St. Petersburg street in August 1997.

One of the two suspects in Starovoitova's death is hiding abroad, and the Interior Ministry has issued an international warrant for him, Nikiforov said. The other is on a nationwide search list, he said.

Starovoitova was shot and killed by unidentified attackers near the door of her St. Petersburg apartment in November 1998.

3 Attacked in Metro

MOSCOW (MT) -- A Chinese citizen, an Indian and a Russian from Buryatia were attacked in the metro by a group of teenagers, Interfax reported Thursday, citing police.

Police detained five young men for the attack in a metro car traveling between the Lubyanka and Chistiye Prudy metro stations Wednesday evening, Interfax said. The Chinese was hospitalized after being beaten. Police were checking whether the detainees belonged to a group of skinheads, the report said.

300 Inmates Protest

MOSCOW (AP) -- More than 300 inmates of a pretrial detention center in the southern city Astrakhan have been boycotting the prison food in an attempt to convince the administration to soften certain rules, officials said Thursday.

Ilya Kolubelov, spokesman for the Justice Ministry's penal department, said 340 inmates at an Astrakhan jail were taking part in the protest, which began Tuesday. He said it could not be considered a hunger strike since the protesters were refusing to eat jail food but were eating food brought to them by relatives.

The inmates were demanding that they be allowed to cook in their cells, take medicine without a doctor's permission and receive books from outside the jail's library, Kolubelov said. He said ministry officials were trying to explain to the protesters that their demands were unacceptable.

Itar-Tass said the inmates were protesting poor conditions in the jail, which it said was built 285 years ago.

Guards Shoot Tractor

MOSCOW (AP) -- Border guards opened fire on the wheels of a combine harvester whose driver was trying to cross illegally from Russia from Kazakhstan on Thursday, officials said. Nobody was hurt.

The guards fired at the combine's wheels after its driver ignored warning shots and steered toward a unit of guards on patrol, said a duty officer at the headquarters of the Federal Border Service.

Itar-Tass said two Kazakh citizens tried to cross into Russia on Wednesday in motor vehicles -- one in a tractor and one in a truck. All the would-be transgressors were detained, it said.

Itar-Tass quoted an unnamed official from the Federal Border Service as saying smugglers take advantage of difficulties in guarding the 7,500-kilometer frontier with Kazakhstan.