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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Mori Meets Putin

MOSCOW (AP) -- President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday received an invitation to visit Japan from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, which was hand-delivered by former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori.

Putin plans to visit Japan next year, his foreign affairs adviser Sergei Prikhodko said.

Russian and Japanese officials are also to meet this month as part of a bilateral intergovernmental commission, and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov is expected to visit Japan later this year, Prikhodko said.

During the Kremlin meeting with Mori, Putin described last month's St. Petersburg summit with Koizumi as "extremely rich in substance."

Putin also said he had just written a letter to Koizumi. "If it hadn't been sent yet, I would have asked you to hand it over," he said.

Deserter Crashes

MOSCOW (AP) -- A soldier who deserted his Siberian post died during a police chase after losing control of the car he commandeered and crashing into a ravine, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday. No one else was injured.

The soldier, identified as Private Ruslan Lebedkin, fled his unit in Ulan Ude in the Buryatia republic Monday night. He was carrying a submachine gun.

The Defense Ministry said the soldier seized a car in an attempt to leave the city. Itar-Tass said that when the car ran out of gas, Lebedkin fired on a minibus, forcing it to stop. The passengers fled into a nearby forest, while the soldier siphoned off gas from the vehicle.

Police caught up with Lebedkin outside Ulan Ude, and during the pursuit, the soldier lost control of the car, sending it careening into the ravine.

Tokhtakhounov Out

ROME (Reuters) -- A reputed Russian mobster accused of fixing the figure skating pairs gold medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City has been released from jail and is a free man, his lawyers said Tuesday.

Italy's highest appeals court ruled against extraditing Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov to the United States late Monday, overturning the decision of a lower court in Venice last January.

Dagestan Convictions

MAKHACHKALA, Dagestan (AP) -- A Dagestani military court has convicted four servicemen and one civilian of illegally acquiring, storing and transporting munitions, but acquitted three alleged accomplices.

The seven servicemen, all stationed in the 136th motorized brigade in Buinaksk, were arrested originally in connection with a May 2002 bombing in Kaspiisk that killed 43 people including 13 children. Investigators said the officers provided the anti-personnel mine that was used in the blast, but the court said at the beginning of the trial that the allegation remained unproven and it was not included in the charges.

The court on Monday sentenced Lieutenant Colonol Nikolai Yamkovoi and Captain Andrei Vedernikov to four and 3 1/2 years in prison, respectively, as the main organizers of the crime. Yusup Taimurazov, a civilian, was sentenced to five years in prison, while two other servicemen received shorter sentences.

Diplomat Attacked

MOSCOW (MT) -- A group of skinheads beat and robbed a Chinese diplomat in western Moscow late Monday, Interfax reported Tuesday.

The victim, an adviser at the Chinese Embassy, was walking with a friend at Filyovsky Park when a group of eight teenagers attacked him, stole his tape recorder and ran away, Interfax said.