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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Referendum a 'Farce'

MOSCOW (AP) -- An aide to Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov on Wednesday called the recent constitutional referendum in Chechnya a "farce" and accused Moscow-backed authorities of falsifying the results.

The results are a "pure falsification in the best tradition of the Soviet past," said Salambek Maigov, Maskhadov's representative in Moscow. He accused Russian authorities of carrying out the vote "at gunpoint."

"There can be no talk of democracy and popular self-expression under conditions of military occupation," he said.

The head of Chechnya's election commission, Abdul-Kerim Arsakhanov, said nearly 96 percent of voters had approved the Kremlin-backed constitution and similar margins backed legislation on holding presidential and parliamentary elections, Interfax reported.

Kadyrov to Refugees

MOSCOW (AP) -- The head of Chechnya's Moscow-backed administration, Akhmad Kadyrov, said Wednesday he would speak to President Vladimir Putin about withdrawing "excess forces" from Chechnya and putting Chechen police in "full control" of the security situation.

Kadyrov also urged refugees who have fled the conflict to return home.

"We do not have enough teachers, doctors. A lot of professionals left the republic, and I ask them to return," Kadyrov told Ekho Moskvy radio. "We will try to arrange all necessary conditions for them."

Budanov Retrial

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Southern Russia (AP) -- Colonel Yury Budanov, who has admitted to killing an 18-year-old Chechen woman, will be retried by a jury, a court official said Tuesday.

The North Caucasus Military Court will grant Budanov's request for a jury trial, said Vladimir Golovanov, an aide to the court's chairman. Golovanov said the trial would begin April 9.

Judges of the North Caucasus court, located in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, ruled in December that Budanov was not criminally responsible for strangling Heda Kungayeva, saying he was temporarily insane at the time of the murder. That decision, which outraged human rights campaigners and ordinary Chechens, was overturned by the Supreme Court in February. The higher court ordered a new trial.

Budanov's lawyer Alexei Dulimov said the defense believed a jury trial was more likely to be objective and immune to political pressure.

American Shot Dead

MOSCOW (MT) -- An American citizen of Russian origin was gunned down Tuesday near the apartment where he was staying in western Moscow.

Boris Isarevich, 39, was shot four times by an unknown assailant at about 9 p.m. on Ulitsa Tolbukhina in an apparent contract killing, a Moscow police spokeswoman said.

The gunman fled in a VAZ-21099 car. None of the valuables Isarevich had with him were taken.

Isarevich made it back to his apartment and called an ambulance, but he died before it arrived.

The police spokeswoman said Isarevich ran the computer import company, Umnaya Tekhnika.

U.S. Bases in Georgia

TBILISI, Georgia (Reuters) -- The United States is in talks with Georgia about U.S. forces using military bases in the south Caucasus country for military action against Iraq, the Georgian Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

"There are some negotiations over these issues between the United States and Georgia. We are a U.S. ally and will help them in any way in their war with Iraq," said Nino Sturua, a Defense Ministry spokeswoman.

Alpha General Dies

MOSCOW (AP) -- Major General Viktor Karpukhin, a former commander of an elite Soviet commando unit who took part in one of the riskier operations of the Soviet Union's 10-year war in Afghanistan, died this week, the Federal Security Service said.

Karpukhin, born in 1947 in the Ukrainian city of Lutsk, joined the KGB's crack Alpha unit in 1979 and worked his way up to commander.

Karpukhin was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union medal for his role in the 1979 storming of Afghan President Hafizullah Amin's palace.

He retired from the Alpha unit in 1991.

TVS television reported that Karpukhin died suddenly Monday night of heart failure on a train between Minsk and Moscow.

Chechen Rebel Trial

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Southern Russia (AP) -- A Chechen rebel went on trial in southern Russia on charges of taking part in a 1995 hostage raid that left more than 100 people dead, said Tatyana Yevtushenko, a spokeswoman for the regional prosecutor's office.

Askhab Mutalibov faces charges of terrorism, banditry, illegal arms possession and hostage-taking, Yevtushenko said Wednesday. She said his trial began Tuesday.

Mutalibov was arrested in Chechnya last year, she said.

Helicopter Crashes

MOSCOW (AP) -- A helicopter with four people on board crashed during navy exercises off the Pacific coast, news agencies reported.

The KA-27PS helicopter fell during flights off an anti-submarine ship that were part of exercises by the Pacific Fleet, Itar-Tass and Interfax-Military news agency said, citing the Defense Ministry.

Rescuers were searching for the four crew members, the reports said.

Ponds Decision

MOSCOW (AP) -- Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, whose taste in public monuments often conflicts with that of cultural critics, backed down Tuesday on a grandiose plan for an outsized tribute to writer Mikhail Bulgakov at Patriarch's Ponds, Interfax reported.

The project drew the ire of residents, artists and writers and Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi, who asked Luzhkov to suspend construction. They said the monument would turn Patriarch's Pond into a gaudy tourist attraction.

As a result, Luzhkov's public city planning council decided Tuesday to scrap most of the plan, leaving only the most uncontroversial element -- a statue of the writer seated on a broken bench -- Interfax reported.

Luzhkov said the city government had made "an unforgivable mistake" for failing to discuss the plan with residents before starting work.

Davydenko Gets Call

NEW YORK (AP) -- Nikolay Davydenko, Russia's hero in the first round of the Davis Cup, was nominated Tuesday to represent his country against Argentina in the tournament's quarterfinals.

The defending Davis Cup champion also chose world No. 7 Marat Safin, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Mikhail Youzhny for the April 4-6 tie in Buenos Aires.

Davydenko beat the Czech Republic's Radek Stepanek in a five-set marathon in February to help Russia progress.

Argentina, which swept Germany 5-0 in the first round, will counter with David Nalbandian, Gaston Gaudio, Mariano Zabaleta and Lucas Arnold.

The winner faces either Croatia or Spain, who will battle on clay in Spain. In other quarterfinal matches, France hosts Switzerland and Australia visits Sweden.