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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Chubais Ouster Call

MOSCOW (AP) -- Political rivals of Anatoly Chubais called for him to be fired as chief of Unified Energy Systems, complaining the job might give him a political edge in next month's parliamentary elections.

Several deputies from different political parties backed a motion urging Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov to dismiss Chubais. They said Chubais, who co-chairs the liberal Union of Right Forces party, could use the utility and its vast resources to win votes or stir up crises in the run-up to Dec. 7 elections.

The nonbinding motion is set to be considered by the State Duma next week.

Chubais dismissed the motion as a farce, saying it would mark the 64th time his foes in parliament have tried to oust him.

Paksas Stands Firm

VILNIUS, Lithuania (Reuters) -- Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas, facing accusations his office has links to Russian gangsters, refused to resign Thursday.

"The Lithuanian people have selected me to do this job and I certainly do not intend to resign," he told reporters as he returned from a visit with Lithuanian soldiers in Iraq.

Lithuania was plunged into political turmoil late last month when security services said in a report that the president's office and some aides were linked to the Russian mafia, and parliament is expected to call for his impeachment.

"Scandals start and scandals end, and I certainly believe this one will blow over," Paksas said.

Berlusconi Slammed

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) -- The European Parliament on Thursday lambasted Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's recent outburst in support of President Vladimir Putin's human rights policies.

Berlusconi dismayed the European Commission and most member states with his remarks at a joint news conference with Putin at the end of a Nov. 6 summit. Italy holds the EU's rotating presidency.

"The European Parliament deplores the declarations made by the president-in-office of the EU Council at the end of the EU-Russia summit in which he expressed his support for the Russian government's position concerning the human rights situation in Chechnya," the parliament said in a resolution.

A parliament spokeswoman said the resolution had been passed easily by a show of hands.

Belarus Labor Probe

GENEVA (AP) -- The United Nations labor agency has ordered an investigation into alleged Belarus government violations of workers' rights, officials said Thursday.

The governing body of the International Labor Organization has decided to appoint three independent experts to investigate complaints of "numerous instances of gross violations" of international labor law in Belarus, the ILO said in a statement.

"Serious attacks have been and continue to be made on all attempts to maintain a free and independent trade union movement," it said.

The appointing of a commission of inquiry is "the most serious procedure" that can be used by the ILO, said Bernard Gernigon, chief of the agency's freedom of association division.

The procedure usually is invoked only in the case of the persistent violations and disregard for the agency's decisions.

Orthodox Talks

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Alexy II has hosted a delegation from an Orthodox church abroad that has run its own affairs since splitting from the Moscow Patriarchate after the 1917 Revolution.

A visit by three high-ranking officials of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia is the first since it severed ties with the Moscow church in the 1920s, accusing it of cooperation with the Communist, "God-battling" government.

The two churches have sought to establish ties since the 1991 Soviet collapse, but the foreign church has balked at the Moscow Patriarchate's push for a quick reunion.

The talks, which went on Thursday for a third day behind closed doors, focused on mending rifts that remain between the two churches.

Ivanov Visits Base

KANT, Kyrgyzstan (AP) -- Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov visited a new Russian military base in Kyrgyzstan on Thursday and said it would serve all former Soviet republics that have signed a collective security treaty.

The base "will carry out those tasks that will be defined by the heads of the states that are in the Collective Security Treaty Organization," Ivanov said while visiting the base at Kant, 20 kilometers east of the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek.

Ivanov was in Kyrgyzstan for a meeting of foreign ministers of the security pact nations, which also include Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

U.K. Envoy Airlifted

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (AP) -- Britain's ambassador to Uzbekistan has been urgently flown to London in an air ambulance, embassy officials said Thursday -- less than a week after his return from a controversial absence.

Ambassador Craig Murray was flown back to London on Wednesday morning after sudden deterioration of his health, embassy spokesman Leonid Kudryavtsev said. He said Murray was expected to come back when his condition improves.

Murray, who has been a vocal critic of Uzbekistan's human rights record, returned to Tashkent this last weekend after more than an absence of two months for medical treatment that prompted speculation that he was being pushed out of his job.

Juice, Not Booze

HELSINKI, Finland (Reuters) -- Finland's teetotal prime minister defied diplomatic etiquette and Finnish culture this week by serving Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov apple juice instead of vodka with dinner.

"Finnish culture stipulates as a norm that guests of this calibre are served alcoholic beverages," Maisa Moijanen from the Finnish-Russian Chamber of Commerce said. "Vodka is an integral part of the dinner setting in Russia. … Wine can be skipped. Vodka can't!"

But when Kasyanov and his wife dined at the home of Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen this week, they had to wash down their elk steak with water and apple juice.

"I do not want to give my children the example that alcohol consumption is part of a meal," Vanhanen said when asked about his choice of tipple.