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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Litvinenko Trial

MOSCOW (AP) -- A court on Tuesday rejected an appeal to jail Alexander Litvinenko, a former security agent who has accused his superiors of ordering him to kill Boris Berezovsky and of engineering the bombing of apartment buildings.

Litvinenko, who fled to Britain in 2000 and received political asylum, was convicted in absentia in June of abuse of office and stealing explosives, and given a 3 1/2-year suspended prison sentence.

The Moscow correctional department appealed that ruling and called for Litvinenko to be imprisoned. The department said imprisonment was warranted because of Litvinenko's "malignant evasion of control," Interfax reported.

The department had forwarded a summons to him in December, but Litvinenko had not responded, the report said. But the court ruled that the receipt of the summons has not been formally verified.

Noviye Izvestia Shut

MOSCOW (MT) -- Noviye Izvestia journalists met Tuesday with the liberal newspaper's controlling shareholder, businessman Oleg Mitvol, but failed to reach an agreement to end a suspension of the paper's publication, Interfax reported.

The Boris Berezovsky-funded newspaper stopped appearing last week after Mitvol, who controls a 76 percent stake, fired the paper's founder Igor Golembiovsky from the post of general director, although he is still editor in chief.

On Tuesday, Mitvol proposed Noviye Izvestia resume publication in early April, Interfax said. The journalists said they were ready to start working immediately and demanded that Golembiovsky be restored to his post.

Military Crime Falls

MOSCOW (AP) -- Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Tuesday that the level of crime in the armed forces decreased last year but still causes concern.

"I consider the state of military discipline to be quite alarming," Ivanov said, according to the Interfax-Military News Agency.

He added that the number of crimes in the military dropped by 14 percent last year compared to 2001, but the situation "causes absolutely no satisfaction."

Chief Military Prosecutor Alexander Savenkov announced in January that the military's noncombat losses last year exceeded 2,000. Eight hundred servicemen were killed by fellow servicemen and the rest fell victim to accidents, he said.

Berezovsky and FSB

MOSCOW (AP) -- Boris Berezovsky, who accuses the Federal Security Service of engineering the bombing of apartment buildings as a pretext for launching a new Chechnya war in 1999, said Tuesday that the FSB was complicit in last year's raid on the Dubrovka theater by Chechen rebels.

In a statement issued from London, where he lives in self-imposed exile, Berezovsky did not present direct evidence to back up the claim that the FSB was involved in the October raid. But he said that unanswered questions about the raid indicated it was "the logical extension of the building explosions in 1999."

"The goal of this terrorist act was to prevent the peace process in Chechnya, which would have signified the collapse of the policy of [President Vladimir] Putin," he said.

Berezovsky raised questions, also raised by other critics, that he said amount to circumstantial evidence "showing the participation of the special services."

Among the questions he posed were why all the hostage-takers killed, when some presumably could have been useful in providing information about terrorist acts and many did not put up resistance; and why none of the hostage-takers detonated explosives after the gas was released but before it took effect.

Tiny Armenia Margin

MOSCOW (AP) -- Armenian President Robert Kocharyan fell just over half a percentage point short of a simple majority that would have let him avoid a run-off in his re-election bid, according to final official results released Tuesday.

Kocharyan won 49.48 percent of the votes in the Feb. 19 election, the Central Election Commission announced. Preliminary results released the day after the vote indicated he had won 48.3 percent.

Kocharyan will face People's Party leader Stepan Demirchyan in a March 5 run-off. Demirchyan won 28.22 percent of the first-round votes, according to the election commission, which had given him 27.4 percent the day after the election.

Manhunt Continues

MOSCOW (MT) -- Moscow police on Tuesday continued to hunt for a 32-year-old man who gunned down two police escorts and seriously injured a third police officer on a train Friday before escaping in eastern Moscow.

Vladislav Stepanov, who was being brought to Moscow for questioning in the death of Oleg Shramko, 35, last summer, might have already fled the capital despite the manhunt, RIA-Novosti reported Tuesday, citing the police.

The police said they suspected Stepanov might be headed for the Urals region of Sverdlovsk, where he has acquaintances.

Snow Leopard Heist

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) -- Kyrgyz police have prevented an attempt by Russian circus artists to smuggle two endangered snow leopard cubs out of the country, authorities said Tuesday.

The cubs were found Monday in a cage hidden in a trailer belonging to Moscow's Imperial Circus, which was winding up a tour in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, said Emergencies Ministry spokesman Torsten Kharder. He said police had acted on a tip from the forest protection agency.

The snow leopard is found in high-altitude regions of Central Asia and is a fast-disappearing subspecies of the leopard.

Fewer than 250 snow leopards are left in Kyrgyzstan, and hunting them or taking them out of the country is illegal. On the black market, one snow leopard can bring up to $10,000.

Authorities were waiting to decide how to proceed pending consultations with Kyrgyz leaders and the Russian Embassy.