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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

6 Killed in Boar Hunt

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Southern Russia (AP) -- A police unit on the lookout for illegal boar hunters in the Krasnodar region came under fire Wednesday from a band of gunmen, believed to be poachers, authorities said. Four officers and two professional hunters assisting the police were killed.

One of the gunmen was also killed and another injured, said Nikolai Dovgal, a duty officer with the Krasnodar emergency situations department.

The rest of the attackers, believed to number about four people, escaped after the early morning attack near the village of Guneiko-4, which is close to the Kotlovin woods.

A massive manhunt was under way Wednesday, with all police units in the area being redirected to the operation. Special forces from the Black Sea resort of Sochi were also being sent to the area. Television showed police stopping cars and searching trunks.

The police patrol was ambushed Wednesday morning as it searched the woods for illegal hunters. The gunmen fired automatic weapons at the police, who responded with grenades, Dovgal said.

6 Million Wages

MOSCOW (AP) -- Six million people did not receive their paychecks on time last year, compared to 9 million the year before, Labor Minister Alexander Pochinok said Wednesday.

Wage arrears are estimated at about 30 billion rubles ($967.7 million), Pochinok said.

"Not a single delay in the payment of salaries should remain unattended," he was quoted by Itar-Tass as saying. "We should make it clear that punishment for overdue salaries is imminent."

Kiev Asked to Help

KIEV (AP) -- U.S. Congressman Curt Weldon called Wednesday for Ukraine to join the United States in developing a missile defense system.

The Republican appealed to Ukrainian space and defense officials to dedicate their "outstanding scientists and researchers" to help develop the system.

Weldon also praised Ukraine's acceptance of U.S. President George W. Bush's proposal that it provide experts to decontaminate areas affected by the potential use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons in a potential conflict with Iraq.

U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual, who joined Weldon at a news conference, said Ukraine's forces could save "tens of thousands of lives" if weapons of mass destruction were used in the Gulf region.

Weldon and Pascual stressed the importance of putting aside the open question of whether Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma had defied a UN embargo by selling radar systems to Iraq in the interests of rebuilding long-term bilateral relations.

Chemical Weapons

MOSCOW (AP) -- Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Wednesday that the disposal of Soviet-era chemical weapons remains a priority for Moscow, but extensive international support is needed to speed up the giant task.

"We are interested in constructive cooperation … so that we can honor all of our commitments," Interfax quoted Ivanov as saying during a meeting with Rogelio Pfirter, director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Russia has been trying to convince other nations of the seriousness of its efforts to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal, which at nearly 40,000 metric tons is the world's largest.

Space Plan a Go

MOSCOW (MT) -- Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has given preliminary approval to the Russian Aviation and Space Agency's plan to expedite funding for the construction of Progress-M cargo ships to service the international space station.

Russian Progress ships and Soyuz crew capsules are the only link to the ISS while U.S. space shuttles remain grounded.

The space agency's plan recommends the federal government deliver in the first half of the year all the funds allocated for the ISS program in 2003, said a Russian space official, who asked not to be named.

The official said the Cabinet will now consider the proposal.

One Dead in Blast

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Southern Russia (AP) -- One person was killed and another injured Wednesday in an explosion apparently caused by a bomb at a medical clinic for railroad workers, an official for the regional branch of the Emergency Situations Ministry said.

The blast killed a 24-year-old worker in the biological laboratory of the clinic in Rostov-on-Don and injured a 78-year-old patient, ministry duty officer Igor Mikhailov said.

He said the explosion occurred as the laboratory worker was opening a package that supposedly contained samples sent to the lab for analysis. The laboratory did not store dangerous substances or explosives, but traces of explosive substances were found at the scene, Mikhailov said.

Uzbek Journalist Trial

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (AP) -- An independent Uzbek journalist has been convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison in a case that media advocates have labeled part of a government campaign to silence dissent against the regime.

Gayrat Mehliboyev was sentenced Tuesday in a Tashkent court for a range of charges including anti-constitutional activity, belonging to a banned Islamic group and organizing public disturbances, according to Human Rights Watch.

Mehliboyev, a recent university graduate with a journalism degree, was arrested in July 2002 at a Tashkent bazaar for allegedly participating in an anti-government protest staged by women whose male relatives had been jailed for religious extremism in connection with the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir party.

President's Birthday

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP) -- Turkmenistan celebrated the birthday Wednesday of President-for-Life Saparmurat Niyazov with a parade including the country's internationally renowned horses, while international human rights groups called for a day of protest.

In a joint statement, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Helsinki Federation, the International League for Human Rights and Memorial Human Rights Center called for Niyazov to mark his birthday with a commitment to human rights.

"For the past decade President Niyazov has presided over a disastrous human rights situation," the statement said.