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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Businessman Freed

MOSCOW (AP) -- Police have freed a kidnapped businessman whose abductors had demanded a $1 million ransom, officials said Thursday.

Dmitry Balyabin, the head of the Priroda insurance company and Kuznetsky Most bank, was freed in an overnight police operation, police spokesman Yevgeny Gildeyev said.

Balyabin was kidnapped Tuesday by unidentified assailants who provoked a road accident on a Moscow street, cutting his SUV with their car. They beat Balyabin and drove him away. Gildeyev said the abductors had demanded a ransom of $1 million for Balyabin.

Kommersant reported Thursday that Balyabin's company had already paid the first $200,000 to a bank account abroad but Gildeyev would not confirm that. He said police freed Balyabin, who was kept in a van parked on a Moscow street, and they were searching for his abductors.

Largest Heroin Bust

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (AP) -- Russian border guards patrolling Tajikistan's border with Afghanistan have seized more than 330 kilograms of heroin in one day -- the largest drug bust this year, officials said Thursday.

The border guards made the bust after an overnight clash with a group of some 10 drug traffickers who tried to cross the border from Afghanistan, said border guards spokesman Colonel Alexander Kondratyev.

Mironov Robbery

MOSCOW (MT) -- The office of human rights commissioner Oleg Mironov were looted Wednesday in what police said looked like a common robbery rather than a politically motivated crime.

The robbers entered the fourth-floor office on Myasnitskaya Ulitsa through an open window, police said.

About 3,000 rubles ($100) was stolen, and police are investigating whether anything else is missing, Moskovsky Komsomolets reported Thursday.

Mironov was attending a seminar of human rights commissioners in Tallinn, Estonia, on Thursday and could not be reached for comment.

Crimea Fire Kills 5

KIEV (AP) -- A fire broke out Thursday at a Black Sea resort on Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, killing five people, an emergency official said.

The fire burned down a two-story cottage in Almaz, a recreational facility 19 kilometers from the town of Sudak, before dawn Thursday, killing five guests, said Oleh Venzhik of the Emergency Situations Ministry. Another two people remain missing, he said.

Firemen extinguished the blaze within an hour and evacuated some 100 people from nearby buildings, but 16 people, including at least two children, were hospitalized with burns and other injuries.

Interfax reported that some 42 guests were staying at the resort. Venzhik could not confirm the report, but said that an unknown number of the guests were Russian citizens.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Rocket to ISS

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (Reuters) -- A Russian rocket, Earth's only link to the international space station, is ready for launch Friday with fresh supplies for the cosmonaut and U.S. astronaut working there, Russian space officials said.

"All is proceeding strictly according to schedule. Everything here on the launch site is as usual, in perfect order," Yevgeny Chorny, deputy head of Baikonur Cosmodrome, said Thursday.

Ukraine Reshuffle

KIEV (AP) -- Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has sacked Interior Minister Yury Smirnov, citing the need to end corruption in the police force, his office said.

"More decisive steps were needed for internal security," Kuchma was quoted by Interfax as saying in making the decision Wednesday.

He hinted that further Cabinet reshuffling was planned.

Smirnov's tenure, since taking over in March 2001, has been tainted by allegations that members of the police force were involved in contract killings, kidnappings and corruption. Smirnov headed the high-profile probe into reporter Georgy Gongadze's death.

Streets Closed Sunday

MOSCOW (MT) -- A number of downtown streets will be closed to traffic from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday during the 22nd Moscow International Peace Marathon, traffic police said.

Traffic will be closed on Moskvoretsky Bridge, Bolotnaya Ulitsa, Bolotnaya Naberezhnaya, Ulitsa Serafimovicha, Sofiiskaya Naberezhnaya, Raushskaya Naberezhnaya and ulitsas Sadovnicheskaya and Balchug. Also closed will be the Kotelnicheskaya, Goncharnaya, Krasnokholmskaya, Krutitskaya, Moskvoretskaya, Kremlyovskaya, Prechistenskaya and Frunzenskaya embankments.

Schools to Stay Shut

MOSCOW (MT) -- More than 100 schools nationwide will remain shuttered when the school year starts Monday because they fail to meet heath safety standards, the Health Ministry said Thursday.

New standards involving meals, lightening, heating and other issues were introduced over the summer.

The country has 72,000 educational institutions.

Jilted Lovers

MOSCOW (MT) -- Five women in Yekaterinburg are suing a 24-year-old man for dating all of them at the same time and promising to marry two of them, local media reported Thursday.

All of the women worked with the defendant at the same law firm. They say they now have lost all faith in men and are each seeking damages of between 1,000 rubles and 3,000 rubles ($33 and $100).

Blast From the Past

TALLINN, Estonia (Reuters) -- Residents of Vandra in rural Estonia got a blast from the past as they received voting cards for an upcoming EU referendum in Soviet-era envelopes complete with hammer and sickle, the post office said Thursday.

National post office Eesti Post apologized for any upset caused by local officials using envelopes from a huge stockpile left from before the Baltic country regained independence in 1991, which also carried the acronym CCCP and other Soviet symbols.

"It's not our practice to use envelopes from Soviet times," Eesti Post spokeswoman Inge Rumessen said. "We banned them long ago."