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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

2 Russian Ships Seized

OSLO -- The Norwegian coast guard on Monday arrested two Russian ships after they were caught illegally transferring fish near the northern Svalbard islands, a spokesman said.

The two ships, a trawler and a transportation vessel, were to be escorted to the main village on Svalbard, Longyearbyen, where the crews would be questioned, coast guard spokesman Dag Rydmark said. The trawler had transferred fish to the larger vessel without reporting it to Norwegian authorities, he said.

Itar-Tass reported that the ships, Kapitan Gorbachev and Dmitry Pokramovich, were near Medvezhy Island in the Barents Sea when they were arrested. (AP)

Gunbattle in Dagestan

MAKHACHKALA -- Gunfire and explosions broke out near a five-story apartment building in the Dagestani capital, Makhachkala, late Monday after police surrounded the building.

Russian news reports said police were looking for armed militants who were holed up in one of the building's apartments. (AP)

Trial in Killing of Tajik Girl

ST. PETERSBURG -- Prosecutors gave opening statements Monday in the trial of eight teenagers charged with the killing of a 9-year-old Tajik girl nearly two years ago in St. Petersburg.

Of the eight charged with the February 2004 beating and stabbing death of Khursheda Sultonova, only one has been charged with murder motivated by hate; the rest were charged with the lesser crime of hooliganism. The girl's father and his nephew were also wounded in the attack.

The teenager charged with the hate crime pleaded not guilty, saying an earlier confession he made to police was made under psychological and physical pressure, Interfax reported. (AP)

Bomb Found in Ingushetia

ROSTOV-ON-DON -- Security services discovered a bomb in Ingushetia and said Monday that they had prevented a serious attack on federal military personnel.

The homemade bomb, equal in force to 10 kilograms of TNT, was found in a cache Sunday in a joint operation by the Federal Security Service and the Prosecutor General's Office, said security service press officer Roman Mezentsev. No other details were disclosed. (AP)

Uzbek Politician Arrested

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan -- Uzbek authorities have arrested an opposition leader on embezzlement charges, the Interior Ministry said Monday, after he pushed for the easing of autocratic rule.

Sanjar Umarov, chairman of the Sunshine Coalition, was arrested for "the theft of millions and embezzlement," the ministry said. Umarov, a wealthy businessman-turned-politician, was detained Saturday, the web site said.

Umarov called on the Uzbek government last week to start a political dialogue and sent an open letter to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov calling for stronger ties with Russia. (AP)

Aliyev Fires Company Head

BAKU, Azerbaijan -- Azeri President Ilham Aliyev on Monday fired the head of the country's largest chemical company, state-owned Azerkimya.

No reason was given for the dismissal of Fikret Sadigov, who is also a member of Azerbaijan's parliament, but it came amid a wave of dismissals connected with allegations of a coup plot against the country's leadership.

Sadigov was the fifth high-ranking official to be fired in a week. Azerbaijan has seen political tensions rise in the run-up to next month's parliamentary vote. (AP)

Niyazov Asked to Stay

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan -- Turkmen politicians chanting praise showed their loyalty to President Saparmurat Niyazov on Monday by imploring the president-for-life to scrap an election for his job promised for 2009.

Delegates from the People's Council, which is controlled by Niyazov, voted to remove the question of presidential elections from the agenda of the country's highest legislative body.

Voting took place while the 2,500 delegates chanted "The people, the motherland, Great Turkmenbashi" in unison.

Niyazov, who in April promised presidential elections in 2009, told delegates that the vote should be held but also said he would return to the question in 2009. (Reuters)

Cardinal Sees Thaw

ROME -- The Vatican's top ecumenical official said Monday that the "ice was thawing" in relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, but that he did not think Pope Benedict XVI would be able to visit Russia any time soon.

Cardinal Walter Kasper said at a news conference that Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II had not excluded a meeting, but that key issues had to be resolved first, most importantly the Russian church's claim that the Catholic Church is proselytizing in traditionally Orthodox lands. (AP)