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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

State of the Nation

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- President Vladimir Putin will address both chambers of parliament with an annual state of the nation address on May 26, the Kremlin said Friday.

Putin, who was re-elected in March, is expected to lay out plans for his second and last four-year term.

Chechen Vote Date

VLADIKAVKAZ, North Ossetia (AP) -- The Chechen election commission said the election to replace slain President Akhmad Kadyrov would be held Aug. 29.

The vote had been expected on Sept. 5, but commission chairman Abdul-Kerim Arsakhanov said Friday that an earlier date was chosen to avoid delaying the start of the school year.

Most election stations in Chechnya are organized in schools, and most election workers are teachers, he was quoted Interfax as saying.

Chechen Charged

MOSCOW (MT) -- Prosecutors have charged a Chechen woman with recruiting suicide bombers to carry out attacks in the capital, Kommersant reported Friday.

Zara Murtazaliyeva, 21, was arrested in March after being closely watched by law enforcement officials since the double suicide bombings at the Tushino rock concert in July, the newspaper said. During that time, she was repeatedly seen talking to young Moscow-based Chechen women about Islam and the holy duties of believers, the report said.

Putin on Road Map

MOSCOW (AP) -- President Vladimir Putin said further efforts must be made to move forward the so-called "road map" to peace in the Middle East.

"Coordinated efforts are needed to improve the situation and ensure the implementation of the 'road map,"' Putin said Saturday in a letter to Arab leaders as they gathered in Tunisia for their annual summit.

CIS Air Defense

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) -- Twelve former Soviet republics are studying the possibility of creating a united system of air defense to protect the region, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said.

"This is a vital system, and it has proved so in exercises held recently," Ivanov said Friday in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, which hosted a meeting of defense ministers from the Commonwealth of Independent States. He gave no further details.

FSB at Olympics

MOSCOW (AP) -- Federal Security Service head Nikolai Patrushev said the FSB will help Greece provide security at the Olympic Games this summer, Interfax reported.

"Russia and the FSB will deal with issues of security for the Olympics," Patrushev said Friday at an anti-terrorism meeting involving 46 countries in Sochi, Interfax reported. He did not provide details about what role Russia's special services would play.

Fire Injures 47

MOSCOW (AP) -- A fire broke out Friday at a textile plant in the town Pyatigorsk in the southern Stavropol region, injuring 47 people.

Firefighters evacuated 120 people from the Mashuk sewing factory, the Emergency Situations Ministry said. Forty-seven people were injured, and 30 of them were hospitalized.

Uzbek Torture Report

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (Reuters) -- A man who died in an Uzbek jail last week had injuries to his head, scrotum and legs suggesting torture, Human Rights Watch said.

A spokesman for the Uzbek Interior Ministry was not available to comment on the allegations by the New York-based rights group.

Andrei Shelkavenko, 36, died Tuesday while in detention at a police station in Gazalkent, near the capital, Tashkent, Human Rights Watch said Friday. It added it was the fifth such death in custody that it had recorded in the past year.

Amber Room Raiders

LONDON (Reuters) -- Russia's lost Amber Room, which was looted by the Nazis during World War II and has eluded treasure hunters for decades, was destroyed by the Red Army in 1945, according to excerpts from a new book on the mystery.

Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper said the book -- The Amber Room: The Untold Story of the Greatest Hoax of the 20th Century -- contains previously secret papers showing that Russian soldiers burned the treasure in 1945. The book's authors, Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott, also say Moscow deliberately covered up the true fate of the Amber Room, maintaining the pretense that it might still be discovered.

Batumi-Turkey Road

ISTANBUL, Turkey (Reuters) -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said that work will begin next year on a highway linking Turkey's biggest city, Istanbul, to Batumi, a Georgian port at the opposite end of the Black Sea.

Saakashvili also plans an airport for Batumi, the capital of Adzharia.

Saakashvili, who also said work on a railroad to Kars in eastern Turkey will begin shortly, said Friday that he hopes better transport links with Turkey will help Adzharia.

Bush Visits Ukraine

KIEV (AP) -- Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush said Ukraine seems "more confident, more dynamic" and more focused on the future than when he was last here in the final months before the Soviet Union's collapse.

Bush arrived in Kiev on Thursday for a two-day private visit at the invitation of Viktor Pinchuk, the son-in-law of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. Pinchuk is also a lawmaker and a powerful Ukrainian businessman.

Kuchma on Friday praised Bush, who was last in Ukraine 13 years ago for a meeting with then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, for "laying the foundations for strategic relations" with the United States.

Vanishing Portraits

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (Reuters) -- Workers removed portraits of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov from most buildings in Ashgabat on Friday, puzzling residents used to a leader with a big personality cult.

There was no sign that Niyazov was in political trouble. Officials remained tight-lipped about what was going on.

Russia's foreign television service NTV Mir said Niyazov had ordered the removal of his portraits as part of "a campaign against his own personality cult."