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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Grenade Blast Kills 2

MOSCOW (AP) -- Two women were killed and nine people were injured Sunday morning when a hand grenade exploded inside a cafe at a Moscow medical academy dormitory during a party.

According to witnesses, the grenade detonated while it was being carelessly handled by a party guest, Interfax said.

Nikolai Lunyev, a police investigator, told NTV television that witnesses said "a very nervous young man" had brought the grenade to the cafe located on the ground floor of the Sechenov Medical Academy.

TVS reported that a group was celebrating Old New Year when the man, who appeared to be intoxicated, came in at about 3 a.m. and quarreled with his girlfriend. He then apparently pulled the grenade's pin and lost control of the grenade, which then exploded. Two women, aged 25 and 29, were killed immediately, TVS reported. Six people, including the man, were taken to a hospital. The other three were treated for their wounds at the scene.

Police did not regard the blast as a terrorist act, but the result of a jealous quarrel, TVS said.

Chernomyrdin Decried

KIEV (AP) -- Ukrainian officials refused a call to expel Russia's ambassador, Viktor Chernomyrdin, after opposition lawmakers claimed he made inexcusable remarks suggesting Ukraine should turn its back on the West.

Foreign Minister Anatoly Zlenko denied that Chernomyrdin's remarks were grounds for "extreme measures," saying that the diplomat had become emotional in defending Russia's interests, Interfax reported.

Lawmakers from the largest opposition faction in parliament sent a letter to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych last month demanding that he respond to Chernomyrdin's "insults" in lecturing Kiev to embrace Moscow over the West.

Ukraine Crash Probe

KIEV (AP) -- The head of the commission investigating last month's fatal crash of a Ukrainian plane in Iran on Friday ruled out technical faults as causing the disaster.

Industrial Policy Minister Anatoly Myalitsa said analysis of all flight records showed that the An-140 twin-engine turboprop slammed into a mountain Dec. 23, killing all 44 aboard, because of a "substantial deviation" from the plan after starting landing maneuvers, Interfax reported.

Myalitsa said it was unclear why the plane left the prescribed landing path, but "the black box did not indicate any failures in the aircraft's operations or its systems," Interfax reported.

The plane hit a mountainside during its final approach to an airport near the city of Isfahan. Most victims were aircraft experts from Ukraine and Russia bound for a demonstration flight of the plane's twin, the Iran-140, built under Ukrainian license in Isfahan.

'42nd Street' Hiatus

MOSCOW (MT) -- The "42nd Street" musical has suspended performances at the MDM Theater until March due to a large slump in attendance after the October hostage-taking crisis.

"Nobody is going to the theater. There are no tourists in Moscow, and we have received four phone calls about bombs planted [in the MDM Theater]," "42nd Street" producer Boris Krasnov told Interfax on Friday.

The U.S. actors involved in "42nd Street" have left Moscow for vacation but will return in time for the show's return to the stage on March 1, he said.

New Catholic Envoy

MOSCOW (AP) -- The Vatican's new top representative for Russia arrived Saturday, expressing hope for improvement in relations that have grown increasingly tense over the past year amid accusations that Roman Catholics are trying to undermine the dominant Russian Orthodox Church.

Papal nuncio Archbishop Antonio Mennini said after his arrival that he hopes relations between Russia and the Vatican "can develop with joint trust and cooperation." The Roman Catholic Church "harbors a feeling of respect and esteem, great and sincere gratitude for the spiritual and cultural traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church," Mennini said in Russian. Mennini was previously the Vatican's envoy to Bulgaria.

Kola Cleanup Pact

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) -- Prime ministers from the Nordic countries and Russia reached an agreement Saturday to help clean up the Kola Peninsula, where rusting Russian submarines and nuclear waste threaten the Arctic environment.

Ministers meeting at the Barents Euro-Arctic Council at the Norwegian town of Kirkenes said Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov had agreed to grant tax exemptions on equipment and technology for recycling radioactive material.

"I think that this is the critical breakthrough that we have been waiting for many years … to contribute in the Kola Peninsula," Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson told Swedish Radio.

Kasyanov told Interfax that the agreement will be ready for signing in the near future and will be ratified by the State Duma this year.

Visa-Free Travel Wish

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia wants to discuss a proposal for visa-free travel with the European Union, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov wrote in an article published Saturday.

President Vladimir Putin first suggested eliminating all visa requirements for travel between Russia and the EU in a letter to EU leaders in August, but got no response to the unexpected proposal.

"Russia expects agreement from its partners in the European Union to sit down at the negotiating table in the near future" to discuss the proposal, Ivanov wrote in the daily Izvestia.

Ivanov conceded that eliminating visas would be a complicated task, but suggested it would reassure Russians that EU expansion is not aimed against them. EU expansion scheduled for next year has evoked worry in Moscow, particularly over the fate of Russia's exclave of Kaliningrad. Russia insisted that its citizens not be required to obtain visas to travel through Lithuania to Kaliningrad.

Body Found Under Car

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) -- A teenager who failed his driver's license test four times struck and killed a pedestrian, but didn't realize what happened until pulling into his driveway, police said Friday.

Tadas Strumskis, 18, was driving his car late Thursday night when he struck and killed 64-year-old Adolfas Neverenski in the town of Rokiskis, 120 kilometers north of the capital, Vilnius.

The teen said he felt something hit his car, an Audi, but didn't think anything of it as he drove the final 2 kilometers home. After he pulled into the driveway, "Tadas noticed a dead man's feet sticking out from under the car," said the teen's father, Jonas Strumskis.

Stasy Meilunas, a Rokiskis police officer, said Tadas shouldn't have been driving, having failed four times to pass the test needed to get a driver's license. "Now everybody can see why," he said.

Tadas has not been charged in the accident, police said.