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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

New Election Bill

MOSCOW (MT) -- President Vladimir Putin has proposed a new law on presidential elections to take into account changes in legislation on voters' rights and political parties, the presidential press service said last week.

The bill, which was submitted to the State Duma late Thursday, says, for example, that a presidential candidate can either be nominated by a political party or nominate himself if he has the backing of at least 500 voters.

Duma Deputy Boris Nadezhdin of the Union of Right Forces said Friday that the bill was "much better and more democratic" than the existing law but criticized proposed campaign rules as too harsh, Interfax reported.

Nadezhdin said his faction would oppose the bill's rules for neutral media coverage and would call for an increase in the campaign spending limit from 150 million rubles ($4.8 million) to at least 600 million rubles.

The estimated cost of the next presidential election, set for March 2004, is 4.9 billion rubles, which would have to be included in next year's budget, the presidential press service said.

5 Boys Blown Up

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- The explosion of a World War II mine at the site of the Battle of Stalingrad killed five boys who apparently tried to dismantle it, police said Saturday.

A police spokesman in Volgograd said the five boys -- aged 6 to 9 -- went to play in a ravine on the outskirts of the city Thursday and never returned.

Parents heard the thump of an explosion but did not pay attention, he said. They sounded the alarm late in the evening as the boys, three of whom were brothers, had failed to come home. A search party Friday found the five bodies scattered around a crater with bits of the mine strewn nearby, the spokesman said.

Yeltsin Checkup

BERLIN (AP) -- Former President Boris Yeltsin was in a Berlin cardiology center Saturday for a routine checkup, the hospital said.

The 71-year-old, who had quintuple heart bypass surgery in November 1996, was being treated by the hospital's chief surgeon and was doing fine, the hospital said. He was released Sunday morning in time to attend the final round of the women's Volleyball World Championships, where he is the guest of honor.

Plane Crash Kills 11

MOSCOW (AP) -- A small plane carrying a group of skydivers crashed shortly after takeoff from an airport in a remote part of Siberia on Saturday, killing 11 people on board, an official said.

The An-2 plane went down about 2.5 kilometers from the runway in the village of Shalinskoye, in the Krasnoyarsk region, said Gennady Savelyev, a duty officer at the Siberian emergency situations department. The plane was carrying 11 skydivers and three crew members.

Savelyev said a preliminary investigation pointed to engine failure.

Customs Official Shot

MOSCOW (AP) -- A top customs official at Domodedovo Airport was shot and killed near his home, a police official said Friday.

The man, who served as director of the customs depot, was found dead at 12:30 a.m. Friday on a street in southeast Moscow, with five bullet wounds to the chest and back, said Moscow police spokesman Yevgeny Gilyayev. He had been dead for approximately two hours.

East Line, which runs Domodedovo, denied that the man worked at the airport, however.

Helicopter Crash

MOSCOW (AP) -- A helicopter crashed in a small town outside Moscow, killing five people, emergency officials said.

The Ka-26 helicopter crashed in Noginsk, 68 kilometers east of Moscow, said Marina Ryklina, a spokeswoman for the Emergency Situations Ministry. Speaking by telephone to NTV television, Ryklina said the helicopter belonged to a Noginsk aviation sports club.

All five people on board, including a 10-year-old boy, were killed, Itar-Tass said, citing Yunis Mustafayev, chief of the Moscow region emergency department. He said its propeller got caught on a power line as the pilot attempted to steer clear of a flock of birds.

2 Drown in Far East

MOSCOW (AP) -- Two people drowned and eight were missing after a truck was swept away by a current while trying to cross a river in Kamchatka, officials said Sunday.

An overturned Ural truck was found Saturday in the Utka River, Konstantin Bushkov, a spokesman for the regional emergency department, told TVS television by telephone. He said three of the 13 people in the truck managed to swim to safety. The bodies of two others were found on the shore, and eight people were missing, he said.

The truck belonged to a fishing company and was carrying workers to fishing areas on the western coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula.

Opposition Harassed

KIEV (AP) -- Ukraine's opposition Batkivshchyna party, led by former Deputy Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, accused authorities Saturday of harassing its supporters on the eve of a nationwide protest aimed at ousting President Leonid Kuchma.

The party said police officers and prosecutors detained or questioned more than 700 opposition activists across Ukraine. The press service of the Interior Ministry said it had no reports of any activists being detained.

Opposition parties are preparing for Monday's anti-Kuchma protest, which politicians hope will draw a large turnout. The protest is being held to mark the second anniversary of journalist Georgy Gongadze's disappearance.

On Saturday, Ukraine's chief prosecutor, Sviatoslav Piskun, acknowledged that Gongadze's murder was a political order, Interfax reported. Previously, prosecutors had denied any political motive.

Vendor Killed

ST. PETERSBURG (AP) -- An Azeri watermelon vendor was killed by unidentified assailants in St. Petersburg and another was wounded in a separate attack, police said Sunday.

Police were considering several theories in the Friday night killing, including an attack by skinheads, said a duty officer at the Primorsky district police department.

The injured victim, Rushan Mamedov, told TVS television that his assailants beat him with a razor blade attached to a stick and threatened to unleash a war on all Azeris in the city.