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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Putin Praises Chechens

MOSCOW (AP) -- President Vladimir Putin on Thursday praised Chechens who work for the Moscow-backed administration in Chechnya, saying they are a force for stability.

"Several thousand Chechens came to believe that the peace processes are really irreversible, took on their share of responsibility for the situation in the republic and went to work as public servants," Putin said in a speech to Interior Ministry officials in Moscow.

He singled out the newly formed Chechen police force -- made up largely of ethnic Chechens -- for praise, saying it had exceeded expectations.

"If you remember, a year and a half ago many people were saying these words: 'You won't find a single Chechen who will cooperate with federal authorities.' Today hundreds of people are working with us," Putin said.

Space Tourism Price

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia's decision to suspend space tourist flights after the Columbia disaster will cost it $45 million, and the country needs other sources of foreign cash to ferry crews and supplies to the international station during the break in U.S. space shuttle flights, Russia's space chief said Thursday.

Russian Aviation and Space Agency head Yury Koptev said Russia was ready to fill in the gap in shuttle flights to the station with its Soyuz crew capsules and Progress cargo ships, but added that other partners in the project should cover the additional costs, Itar-Tass reported.

Russia has budgeted the equivalent of $130 million to fulfill its obligations to the international space station project this year -- "barely enough" to pay for the two Soyuz and three Progress ships it pledged to send, Koptev said

Reaction to Powell

MOSCOW (AP) -- Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Thursday that Russia's position on Iraq had not changed following U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech outlining Iraq's alleged weapons program.

"On the contrary, based on the results of yesterday's meeting of the UN Security Council, we believe that the position, under which the Iraqi question is settled in strict accordance with the Security Council resolution, is correct," Ivanov said in Moscow after talks with Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz.

"There are all necessary possibilities for a political settlement," he said, adding that a first analysis of Powell's statement did not reveal any new evidence showing that Iraq is producing weapons of mass destruction. "In that information, it is not revealed," he said.

But Ivanov said Russia "will wait for the results of work by the international inspectors [in Iraq], who must verify this information."

Neutrality Over Iraq

MOSCOW (AP) -- A majority of Russians believe their country should remain neutral if the United States launches military action against Iraq, according to the results of an opinion poll released Thursday.

The Public Opinion Foundation asked 1,500 Russians what their country should do if war is declared on Iraq. Some 61 percent said Russia should should not support any side in the conflict, while 19 percent said Russia should support Iraq and 7 percent favored the United States. The poll was conducted Feb. 1.

Some 45 percent of respondents said Iraq was "not aggressive" and posed no danger to other countries, while 27 percent called Iraq aggressive.

Asked about Iraqi weapons programs, 35 percent said they believed Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction, 27 percent said Iraq was not developing such weapons, and 37 percent said it was difficult to say.

Lviv's Dudayev Tablet

KIEV (AP) -- The western Ukrainian city of Lviv incurred Russia's ire Wednesday after the city council approved plans to place an "informational tablet" at a street named after late Chechen rebel leader Dzhokhar Dudayev.

Iryna Podolyak, head of the international relations department of the Lviv Mayor's Office, denied a statement by a Russian official that Lviv had agreed to allow a civic organization to place a memorial plaque to Dudayev.

Podolyak said by telephone that the city's cultural council denied the request from a nongovernmental organization to place a memorial plaque because the Chechen "had no historical connection to Lviv."

However, the council agreed that an informational tablet could be placed on the street.

Pacific Fleet Trial

MOSCOW (AP) -- A military court in the Far East convicted three Pacific Fleet servicemen for stealing explosives, Interfax reported Thursday.

The servicemen, a senior lieutenant and two warrant officers, were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to six years, the report said.

They were convicted of stealing explosives from a military warehouse two years ago, the report said. Following their arrest, police found 389 kilograms of TNT and more than 2,000 electronic detonators in their possession.