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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Helium Plant Blast

MOSCOW (AP) -- One firefighter was killed and three other people were missing after a gas leak caused a massive explosion at a helium factory in Orenburg, emergency officials said Saturday.

The blast occurred at about 2:55 p.m., and firefighters spent five hours putting out the blaze.

6 Years for Threats

MOSCOW (AP) -- A Urals court on Friday sentenced a man to six years in prison for sending threatening letters to U.S., Canadian and other diplomats.

The regional court in Yekaterinburg convicted Alexander Raskovalov of sending letters containing white powder to diplomats in Moscow and Yekaterinburg in early 2002, Interfax said. The letters contained a demand that authorities punish Canadian swindlers that the sender had allegedly fallen victim to.

Diplomat Expelled

OSLO (Reuters) -- Norway said Friday that it expelled a Russian diplomat in late January in an apparent spy dispute, triggering a tit-for-tat expulsion of a Norwegian.

The two sides kept the dispute secret until now, apparently to avoid escalating the dispute.

Lukashenko 'Dictator'

RIGA, Latvia (AP) -- U.S. Senator John McCain called Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko a dictator Saturday and dismissed Belarus' planned October elections as "bogus."

"President Alexander Lukashenko has manipulated the constitution to solidify his control," McCain said during a visit to Riga on Saturday. "He has ordered the disappearances of opposition activists and journalists. He runs Belarus as if it was the Soviet Union, instilling a climate of fear, repression and arbitrary rule."

For the Record

Uzbek prosecutors demanded jail terms of up to 20 years -- not death -- for 15 alleged al-Qaida-linked Islamic militants accused in attacks that killed at least 47 people this year. (AP)

CIS election observers on Friday accused Western monitors of bias in assessing Ukraine's presidential election campaign. (AP)