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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

No Asylum for Iraqis

MOSCOW (AP) -- The State Duma failed to adopt an appeal proposed by nationalist lawmaker Alexei Mitrofanov that urged President Vladimir Putin to grant political asylum to the leaders of Iraq.

Sixty-four lawmakers in the Duma voted in favor of opening discussion on the proposal and two were against. The rest of the lawmakers in the 450-member Duma declined to vote.

"U.S. aggression against Iraq has led to numerous victims, destruction and disintegration of the country. Under Russian law, political asylum is granted to people who are persecuted for political motives and whose lives are in danger. The leaders of Iraq definitely fall under this category," said Mitrofanov, a vocal member of the LDPR faction.

Chechens Found Dead

VLADIKAVKAZ, North Ossetia (AP) -- Three local officials from the Moscow-backed Chechen administration who went missing three days ago were found dead in a car, a Chechen government official said Wednesday, and the disfigured bodies of three young men were found dead outside Grozny.

The three dead officials discovered Tuesday night outside Chechnya's second-largest city, Gudermes, included Vyacheslav Sanko, the deputy chief of the Gudermes district administration, said the Chechen official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. They had disappeared while on a hunting trip.

The corpses of the three young men found near the village of Michurino, just outside Grozny, showed signs of torture, the official said. Their hands were tied behind their backs, they had multiple bullet and stab wounds and their faces were disfigured. A preliminary investigation suggested they had been killed within the last week.

Putin on UN's Role

MOSCOW (AP) -- In an effort to preserve the importance of the United Nations, President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday proposed a key UN role in creating a global system to fight terrorism, Itar-Tass and Interfax reported.

In a statement read by an aide to a conference of representatives of law enforcement agencies and security services from former Soviet republics, Western and Asian countries, Putin said the threat of terrorism required greater international cooperation, the reports said.

"Today the world community faces a common task -- the creation of an effective system of international security, which provides people with a real defense against terrorism and extremism. The United Nations is called upon to play a key role here," Putin said.

Arms Agency Reshuffle

MOSCOW (AP) -- Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has replaced Zinovy Pak, the head of the Munitions Agency, with Colonel General Viktor Kholstov, the government press office confirmed Wednesday.

Kholstov once headed the radiation, chemical and bacteriological department at the Defense Ministry.

Pak was relieved of his duties Monday because he had reached retirement age, the government press office said.

Iraqi to Flee Minsk

MOSCOW (MT) -- Salman Zeidan, Iraq's ambassador to Belarus, has taken some $500,000 from an embassy bank account and plans to flee to an African country, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported Wednesday, citing an embassy source.

Zeidan, who had enjoyed good relations with the Belarussian administration, requested permission to stay in Minsk as a private citizen but was refused, the paper said.

Internet Prayer Service

MOSCOW (MT) -- Monks from the Holy Lake Monastery of Iberia (Iversky) are now offering prayers on the Internet, reported.

The devout can now order prayers through the monastery's web site. Prices vary from 25 rubles to 100 rubles. For example, for 40 rubles, you can ensure that your name will be remembered in its prayers for half a year.

Prayer-seekers can pay by mail or by bank transfer.

Blair to Visit

MOSCOW (MT) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair will visit Moscow on April 29 to meet President Vladimir Putin. The two leaders will discuss the role of Russian companies in the restoration of the Iraqi oil industry, NTV reported Wednesday.

Russia's population has declined sharply since 1989 but an influx of migrants helped to partially fill the gap, according to preliminary census data reported Wednesday.

Census Results

MOSCOW (AP) -- The population shrank by 1.3 percent -- about 1.8 million people -- and now stands at 145.5 million, according to preliminary results from October's census, Interfax reported.

The last census in 1989, two years before the Soviet Union collapsed, counted 147 million people. Officials had earlier predicted a sharper decline, to 143.4 million, due to a minuscule birth rate and an overall decline in health following the breakup of the Soviet Union.

However, a wave of migration partially filled the gap, according to the census data. Russia lost 7.4 million people but more than 5.5 million migrants entered the country, Interfax reported.

Russia now has the seventh-largest population in the world, after China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Brazil and Pakistan. Some 73.3 percent of the population live in cities, and women outnumber men 54 percent to 46 percent.

The October census was originally scheduled to take place in 1999 but was delayed three years.