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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Abramovich Talks

MOSCOW (MT) -- Roman Abramovich's Millhouse Capital asset management holding is in talks to by the Soversheno Sekretno media group, which publishes a number of newspapers and crime magazines, Prime-Tass reported Tuesday.

The report, citing unidentified sources close to the negotiations, said that if a deal is struck, Soversheno Sekretno will be headed by Sibneft external communications director Vladimir Ruga.

Millhouse Capital officials were not available for comment late Tuesday.

Soversheno Sekretno's Versia weekly is facing financial troubles after recently losing a libel lawsuit and being ordered to pay about $400,000 in damages. Versia's editor resigned Monday over the suit.

Prime-Tass said Soversheno Sekretno also has held talks with Oleg Deripaska's Base Element.

Strelas Stolen

MOSCOW (AP) -- At least eight shoulder-fired missile launchers have been stolen from a naval arsenal, Interfax quoted a military official as saying Tuesday.

The Strela missile launchers were stolen from an arsenal in Bolshiye Izhory, outside St. Petersburg, Leningrad Military District prosecutor Igor Lebed said.

The report did not specify when the theft took place or how thieves may have gained access to the weapons. Defense Ministry officials could not be reached for clarification.

Shoulder-fired missiles have been used by insurgents in Chechnya to shoot down military helicopters, including three that were shot down last year at the main military base near Grozny.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said last month that a Russian Strela system was used to fire missiles that just missed an Israeli charter plane after it took off from Mombasa, Kenya, last November with 271 people on board. U.S. officials believe al-Qaida launched the attack.

Deserter Killed

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Southern Russia (AP) -- An armed sergeant who deserted his post was killed in a shootout Tuesday with military authorities who were trying to detain him, officials said.

The paratroop sergeant, Vladimir Bryukhov, deserted his post in the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk on Sunday evening, taking an automatic rifle and ammunition with him.

A resident saw Bryukhov hiding at an abandoned factory in the nearby town of Gaiduk and alerted authorities, a regional duty officer for the Emergency Situations Ministry said.

He was killed in a shootout with members of a search party that came to detain him, the officer said.

Defense Ministry spokesman Nikolai Deryabin said Bryukhov was killed after resisting arrest, Interfax reported.

A regional Interior Ministry duty officer said, however, that the sergeant fatally shot himself following the shootout.

Bryukhov was drafted into the military in December and was from the Perm region.

Missile Hits Village

MOSCOW (AP) -- A missile fired by a warplane during training exercises exploded in a northwestern village on Tuesday, injuring one civilian slightly, Interfax reported.

The report cited air force spokesman Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky as saying the errant missile was fired by an Su-24 that was taking part in exercises at the Kingisepp testing range, 120 kilometers southwest of St. Petersburg.

Drobyshevsky said it was not clear where the missile landed or if there were injuries. But Interfax cited an unnamed regional law enforcement official as saying the missile exploded in the yard of a resident of Ragulovo, about 20 kilometers from the testing range, injuring the man slightly and destroying some outbuildings.

The report did not specify whether the missile was fired on an incorrect trajectory or whether it malfunctioned and went off-course. Air force officials could not be reached for comment.

Former Minister Freed

MOSCOW (MT) -- A former interior minister of the Kalmykia republic was released from custody in Rostov-on-Don on Monday, pending his trial on charges of corruption and abuse of office, Interfax reported.

The Leninsky district court ordered the release of Timofei Sasykov, a loyal supporter of Kalmyk President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

Prosecutors believe Sasykov misused his authority in a series of shady real estate deals and have hinted the accusation is just the tip of the iceberg.

No date has been set yet for Sasykov's trial. He maintains his innocence.

If convicted, Sasykov faces up to four years in prison.

Sasykov was arrested in Nalchik, in the southern Kabardino-Balkaria republic, on May 27, only a day after President Vladimir Putin signed a decree firing him.

Embassy Security

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia has stressed its demand that the United States provide for the security of the Russian Embassy in Baghdad, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday in the latest sally in a dispute over the issue.

During a meeting Monday that focused on other matters, Deputy Foreign Minister Anatoly Safonov told U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow that the embassy must be protected, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"The Russian side particularly underlined the need for the provision of security for the Russian diplomatic mission in Baghdad in accordance with international legal norms and commonly accepted diplomatic practice," the statement said.

It was the second Foreign Ministry statement to raise the issue since Interfax quoted Vershbow as saying in an interview that Washington does not view the Russian Embassy in Iraq as a diplomatic mission and cannot accept responsibility for the staff's safety.

Vershbow said the United States considers it unwise for other countries to set up diplomatic missions in Iraq now because there is no Iraqi government.

Kodanyov Kept in Jail

MOSCOW (AP) -- A Moscow court ruled Tuesday that Liberal Russia's Mikhail Kodanyov, who is suspected of killing Deputy Sergei Yushenkov, will be kept in custody while police investigate.

The Moscow City Court endorsed the ruling of a lower court that sanctioned the arrest of Kodanyov and his assistant, Alexander Vinnik, last month. It rejected an appeal by Kodanyov's lawyers, who said he should be freed, Interfax reported.

Train Let Go

CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) -- Separatists controlling the eastern part of Moldova allowed a train carrying Russian weapons out of the region to leave, officials said Tuesday.

The shipment, part of a larger effort by Russia to withdraw its huge stockpiles of weapons and ammunition from the region, left the region on Monday night after being sidetracked since June 16, when separatists denied permission for the train to leave.

Russian-speaking separatists who control Transdnestr, the area where the weapons are stored, had stopped the arms and ammunition shipments, claiming that Russia needed to pay them some $100 million in compensation.

But on Monday, they allowed the train carrying 600 metric tons of weapons and ammunition to leave, said William Hill, the representative in Moldova for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

In Brussels, Belgium, NATO officials hailed the resumption of the Russian withdrawal. NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said people were "very heartened" by news of the train movement.

"That is a very good sign that things in general appear to be moving in the right direction," he said.

OSCE Blasts Kiev

KIEV (Reuters) -- The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe criticized Ukraine on Tuesday for passing a bill allowing for the detention of journalists suspected of revealing state secrets, saying it was an "ominous" move.

The OSCE's media representative, Freimut Duve, said the bill, which was passed by parliament earlier this month, would also hinder journalists from protecting their sources.

"It is ominous that your country, where the media situation has been steadily deteriorating for the past five years, should decide at this point to approve a highly restrictive law that would have a chilling effect on the work of journalists, especially those investigating corruption," Duve said in a letter to Ukraine Foreign Minister Anatoly Zlenko.

The bill, which still needs to be signed by President Leonid Kuchma, allows Ukraine's secret service to arrest journalists who refer to state secrets in their stories. It is not clear what information is classed as a state secret.

Kuchma's Amendments

KIEV (AP) -- Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma moved Tuesday to smooth the way for stalled political reforms by withdrawing several proposed constitutional amendments that opposition leaders claimed were aimed at extending his term in office.

Seeking to remove a "stumbling block" to changing the Ukraine's distribution of political power, a frustrated Kuchma said he has decided to ask the Constitutional Court not to consider constitutional amendments he said were intended to transfer some power from the executive to the legislative branch.

"I've made the decision to withdraw the draft. … It's an individual as well as a presidential decision," Kuchma said at his monthly news conference.

Kuchma's decision came just days after parliament sent two rival proposals -- one backed by the president and the other by a parliamentary committee -- to the constitutional court, which must approve all proposed amendments prior to a vote in the legislature.

However, Kuchma said lawyers are checking whether technicalities may prevent him from withdrawing it.