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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Novosibirsk Killing

MOSCOW (AP) -- A deputy mayor responsible for land and property issues in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk was shot to death Tuesday in what prosecutors suspect was a contract killing, local news reports said.

Deputy Mayor Valery Maryasov was shot in the elevator of his apartment building in Novosibirsk in the morning, said Natalya Markasova, regional prosecutor's office spokeswoman, Itar-Tass reported. Markasova said prosecutors believe the slaying was a contract killing linked to Maryasov's position as head of the city's land and property department.

Maryasov predecessor in the post, Igor Belyakov, was also slain in an apparent contract killing, Itar-Tass reported. Nobody has been charged in Belyakov's killing.

Transvaal Death Toll

MOSCOW (AP) -- A man who was injured when the roof at the Transvaal water park collapsed last month has died in a hospital, bringing the toll in the disaster to 28, Interfax reported. The 44-year-old man was one of more than 100 people injured when the glass-and-concrete structure came crashing down on bathers at the water park in southwest Moscow on Feb. 14.

City health authorities said that 21 people remained hospitalized, two of them in critical condition, Interfax reported. Officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Prison Population Falls

MOSCOW (AP) -- The number of inmates in Russia's prisons and jails has dropped by 23 percent over the last four years due to legal changes and reforms, a Justice Ministry official said Tuesday.

Valery Krayev, deputy head of the ministry department that oversees the prison system, said the overall prison population has decreased by 245,000 since May 2000 and today is 844,100.

He said the number of people in Russia's notoriously overcrowded pretrial detention centers has been cut by 48 percent, leaving inmates with an average of almost four square meters of living space compared to less than one square meter four years ago.

Krayev said 70,000 inmates have tuberculosis, and 35,000 inmates are infected with HIV.

Navy to Sail in '04

MOSCOW (AP) -- Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Tuesday that Navy squadrons will sail to the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean this year -- voyages apparently aimed at demonstrating a revival of the nation's military power.

Ivanov, speaking after talks with his Portuguese counterpart Paulo Portas, wouldn't say when the voyages will take place or how many ships will be involved.

"We aren't going to send armadas," Interfax quoted him as saying.

"Recently, the Russian Navy has become more active and started going out into the sea," Ivanov said.

The Navy's presence in world oceans has been reduced sharply since the Soviet collapse, with most warships languishing in port due to a lack of fuel and spare parts. The Navy has scrapped some relatively new warships just because it lacked money to maintain them.

NATO on Baltics

RIGA, Latvia (Reuters) -- NATO is determined to provide the three Baltic countries with airspace defense when they become members next month despite Russian suspicions, the alliance's chief was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

Moscow has softened its stand on NATO's enlargement beyond the old Iron Curtain but remains uneasy about the possible basing of alliance forces on its border, especially in the three former Soviet states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

"NATO must do and will do in the Baltics what it is doing in all its territory," Secretary-General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer said in an interview with the Latvian newspaper Diena.

"We are speaking about the protection of NATO airspace rather than Baltic air space, and I can assure you that we have the support of all member states," added de Hoop Scheffer, who is due to visit Latvia at the end of this week.

De Hoop Scheffer urged President Vladimir Putin to accept an invitation to NATO's Istanbul summit in June, though diplomats say strains over the alliance's enlargement and Russia's troop presence in Moldova and Georgia could mean he stays away.

Tiara in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG (AP) -- An elaborate tsarist-era tiara brought back from Britain went on display in the State Hermitage on Monday -- and the businessman trying to raise funds for it to be permanently repatriated gushed that it looked right at home.

"In St. Petersburg, the tiara started sparkling brighter than in England and Moscow," Artyom Tarasov said.

The tiara of gold, diamonds and rubies was a wedding gift from Grand Duke Mikhail, a grandson of Czar Nicholas I, to Sofia von Merenberg; they married in 1891.

Tarasov told reporters at the Hermitage that the tiara will be returned to Britain if a buyer isn't found by the end of the month. He said he expected experts to value the tiara at somewhere between $4 million and $8 million.