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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Medical Issues on ISS

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russian space authorities said Wednesday that a cosmonaut bumped from a spacewalk by NASA for medical reasons is healthy, saying American concerns about cardiovascular "peculiarities" they have known about for years had prompted the U.S. space agency to make the decision.

Nikolai Budarin was supposed to join U.S. astronaut Kenneth Bowersox in six-hour spacewalk outside the international space station, originally scheduled for last month. But U.S. flight surgeons opposed Budarin's involvement because of undisclosed medical concerns, and the spacewalk was delayed until next week.

"He has no illness. Budarin is healthy," Valery Bogomolov, deputy director of the Institute for Medical and Biological Problems, which runs the medical side of the Russian space program, said in comments broadcast on TVS television.

"The peculiarities of his cardiovascular system are known to us, he had them on previous flights as well," Bogomolov said. But he said the responsibility for spacewalks in American spacesuits lies with NASA.

NASA said Tuesday that rookie astronaut Donald Pettit will substitute for Budarin, who is scheduled to remain aboard the station with Pettit and Bowersox until March.

New Lithuania Leader

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) -- Lithuanian President-elect Rolandas Paksas, who claimed a surprise victory in a presidential runoff Sunday, said he would continue to guide the country toward the West, but hinted at changes in the country's domestic politics.

"Membership in the European Union and NATO are the key priorities, as well as good relations with our neighbors," he said Monday after the country's election commission declared him the winner. "In domestic politics, some things may be done faster and better."

Paksas, 46, and a former stunt pilot, won Sunday's runoff with 54.91 percent of the vote, compared with incumbent President Valdas Adamkus' 45.09 percent, according to official preliminary results. The commission will announce final official results Friday. The inauguration will be Feb. 26.

Navy to Scrap Ships

MOSCOW (AP) -- The navy has decided to scrap about one-fifth of its ships because of a lack of funds to maintain them, its commander said in an interview published this week.

"The navy will decommission those ships that to keep results in unreasonable expenses," Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov told the military official daily Krasnaya Zvezda in its Sunday issue. "I regret to say that it will reduce the number of navy ships by about one-fifth of their current number."

Kuroyedov did not say how many ships the navy currently has, but Western experts have put their number at about 300.

Putin Submits Bills

MOSCOW (AP) -- President Vladimir Putin has submitted to the State Duma two bills that spell out the powers of different levels of government in a bid to streamline their work.

One bill spells out federal controls over regional programs that are funded from the central budget. The second bill is to replace a 1995 law on local government that was criticized as vague and inefficient and is intended to "make the municipal authorities close to the people and improve the quality of services to the population," the Kremlin said.

Skating Extradition

VENICE, Italy (AP) -- An Italian court has ruled that a reputed Russian mobster accused of fixing figure skating results at the Olympics should be extradited to the United States, his lawyer said.

Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, 53, has been held in a Venice prison since July on U.S. charges that he helped secure a gold medal for Russia in the pairs competition at Salt Lake City in exchange for a victory for the French ice dancing team.

Tokhtakhounov denies the charges.

"The court decided on extradition, but we plan to appeal," lawyer Luca Saldarelli said Tuesday. "We have to wait 15 days to receive the reasons for the decision and then we'll make an appeal."

If convicted on the U.S. charges, Tokhtakhounov could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of five counts.

Sutyagin Appeal

MOSCOW (AP) -- The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal for the release of Igor Sutyagin, a researcher accused of spying for the United States, while he studies materials in the case against him.

Sutyagin, a scholar at Moscow's U.S.A. and Canada Institute, was arrested in October 1999 on suspicion of passing military information to a British company allegedly set up as a cover for the CIA. Sutyagin denies the charges.

In October, a Moscow court extended pretrial detention for Sutyagin while he studies the materials in the case against him. The Supreme Court decision on Dec. 25 upheld that lower court's ruling, which Sutyagin had appealed, news agencies reported.

Turkmen Probe

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP) -- Security Council chief Vladimir Rushailo has pledged Moscow's support in the investigation of an assassination attempt on Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov.

Niyazov has accused Turkmen opposition figures based in Russia of organizing and financing the attack, in which gunmen opened fire on his motorcade in Ashgabat. Niyazov was not hurt.

Niyazov has asked President Vladimir Putin to help locate and extradite two of the alleged conspirators -- former Central Bank chief Khudaiberdi Orazov and former ambassador to Turkey Nurmukhammed Khanamov.

The alleged mastermind behind the attack, former Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov, was arrested by Turkmen authorities and given a sentence of life in prison Dec. 30.

Rushailo said he and Turkmen officials signed a protocol on cooperation in the search and extradition of criminals.

Terror Cell Dismantled

PARIS (AP) -- French authorities have dismantled a terror cell with ties to Chechen rebels and al-Qaida that planned bomb or toxic gas attacks in France and Russia, the French Interior Ministry said.

The announcement Dec. 28 followed the arrests earlier in the week of four alleged Islamic militants in suburban Paris, ending a sweep in which several suspects were detained by France's counterintelligence agency, the DST.

The sweep came during a probe of networks thought to be involved in secretly sending fighters to Chechnya to battle Russian troops.

"At this stage of the investigation, we can surmise that the operational group in France has been dismantled and the plot it was preparing has been thwarted," the ministry said.

Among suspected targets were the Russian Embassy in Paris and Russians in Chechnya, the ministry said.

Among those taken into custody was Nourredine Merabet, who trained with Chechen rebels and met "high-level al-Qaida operatives" in Georgia, the ministry said. The suspects had targeted Russian interests in France to "avenge" the death of Chechen leaders fighting against Russian forces and the killing of Chechen hostage-takers in the Moscow theater raid, the ministry said.

Solzhenitsyn in Clinic

MOSCOW (MT) -- Nobel Prize-winning writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn remained in a Moscow hospital with high blood pressure Wednesday, although his condition has improved since he was hospitalized in late December.

"We have no news except for good news. He is feeling better," an official at Solzhenitsyn's Russian Public Foundation said by telephone Wednesday.

It was unclear when Solzhenitsyn would be released from the Central Clinical Hospital. The 84-year-old writer was hospitalized with high blood pressure in the last week of December, the official said. Solzhenitsyn is also suffering a stiffness in his left leg, Interfax reported. The official would not confirm the report.

Air Traffic Strike Over

MOSCOW (AP) -- Air traffic controllers and the State Civil Aviation Authority have reached agreement on wage increases, ending a strike that had spread to more than 40 regions of the country.

The air controllers' union was calling for 30 percent wage increases, in contrast to the 15.2 percent that aviation authorities had approved. The agreement reached Dec. 25 provides for an increase of 28.44 percent for controllers in the nation's busiest air corridors and 15.7 percent for the rest from Jan. 1, Interfax reported. The deal provides for further wage increases in the first half of 2003.

Russia Wins Worlds

HALIFAX, Canada (Reuters) -- Yury Trubachev scored at 11:09 of the third period to give Russia a 3-2 win over Canada in the final at the 2003 World Junior Hockey Championships.

Russia trailed 2-1 after two periods but scored twice in the final period to defeat the home side before a sell-out crowd of 10,594 on Sunday. It is the second consecutive year Russia has beaten Canada in the final.

"Our goal was to play a team game from the beginning of the tournament to the end and we did," Russia's coach Rafail Ishmatov said through a translator. "Canada was very good, we just had a little more luck in this game."

Andrei Taratukhin opened the scoring for the Russians at 11:17 of the first period, but Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau tied the game 44 seconds later, deflecting a shot from the point, to make it 1-1 after 20 minutes.

Canada captain Scottie Upshall put the Canadians ahead on a power play goal at 16:22 of the second period, but Igor Grigorenko tied the game for Russia at 4:22 of the third period before Trubachev sealed the win seven minutes later.

Andrei Medvedev stopped 22 shots in goal for the Russians while Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves in goal for Canada.

For the Record

The U.S. Embassy consular section will be closed Thursday and Friday while it moves back into 19/23 Novinsky Bulvar following reconstruction. (MT)

After an inquiry, Moscow city prosecutors have rejected a complaint that Harry Potter books incite religious hatred, Interfax reported. The complaint, which was filed late last month, said "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," the second book in the series, promoted witchcraft and discredited the Orthodox faith. (MT)

A Moscow court is to begin hearing on Jan. 16 the first of 47 lawsuits filed by victims and relatives in last year's seizure of a Moscow theater by Chechen gunmen, the plaintiffs' lawyer said. (AP)

Valentin Moiseyev, a former Russian diplomat convicted of spying for South Korea, has been released from prison after completing his sentence, his lawyer said. He was released Dec. 31 from a hospital where he was being treated for severe gastric problems. (AP)

President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree granting Russian citizenship to Warrant Officer Oleg Kozlov, a military officer based in Tajikstan who managed to pitch his request for naturalization during a televised question-and-answer session with the Russian leader, the Kremlin said Dec. 25. (AP)

CSKA Moscow has signed Czech international midfielder Jiri Jarosik in a deal worth about $5 million, a record signing in the Russian Premier League. (AP)