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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Yavlinsky Slams EU

BRUSSELS -- Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky leader on Wednesday criticized the European Union, saying the bloc had no long-term strategy for building economic and political ties with Russia.

Yavlinsky also said Russia was more than a mere provider of natural resources in Europe's drive to compete with emerging Asian economies and the United States.

"The EU is not prepared" for long-term political and economic relations with Russia, Yavlinsky said after a seminar on democracy in Russia at the European Parliament. "At the moment, there is no strategy. The EU only takes a very short-term approach."

The opposition leader also offered some criticism of the Russian government, calling it an authoritarian system with no independent parliament, media or justice.

An influential European Union lawmaker called on EU governments to stop recognizing Russia as a democracy due to what he called lack of political freedom. "This we have to make clear -- there is no democracy in Russia," Daniel Cohn-Bendit, leader of the Greens in the EU assembly, said after the seminar. (AP)

Ingush Blast Kills One

NALCHIK -- An explosion hit a gas processing plant in Ingushetia on Wednesday, killing one person and injuring several others, emergency and police officials said.

The blast raised fears of a terrorist attack, but authorities said it appeared to have been an accident. The explosion occurred at a gas processing plant in the Malgobek district, near the border with Chechnya, when workers were inside a building at the plant, an Ingush Interior Ministry spokesman said. (AP)

Powerful Bomb Defused

MAKHACHKALA -- Military engineers defused a powerful explosive device in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, police said Wednesday.

Regional Interior Ministry spokeswoman Irina Volkova said the device, packed with TNT with a grenade attached, was found around midnight not far from the regional training site for the Federal Security Service. (AP)

Russia Criticizes Georgia

The Foreign Ministry harshly criticized Georgia on Wednesday over its parliament's resolution setting the stage for a bid to remove Russian peacekeepers from two separatist regions.

The Georgian parliament said Tuesday that the peacekeepers were undermining security in the two pro-Russian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and asked the government to seek the troops' removal if they did not stop.

A Russian Foreign Ministry statement called the Georgian resolution "a provocation … aimed at raising tension" and hindering efforts to resolve the longstanding conflicts between the central government and the separatist authorities in the two regions, where Russian peacekeepers have been deployed since the early 1990s. (AP)

Yushchenko's Poisoning

KIEV -- Ukrainian Prosecutor General Svyatoslav Piskun said Wednesday that President Viktor Yushchenko's dioxin poisoning was aimed at killing him. The comments were the first time that prosecutors have called last year's poisoning an assassination attempt against Yushchenko.

"It was not a poisoning, it was an assassination attempt," Piskun said during a meeting with activists from the new political party Pora, a youth movement that was one of the main organizers of the Orange Revolution. "We have absolutely proven that Yushchenko was poisoned with the aim of murder."

No one has been charged in connection with the poisoning. (AP)

Piskun Vows Court Fight

KIEV -- Ukrainian Prosecutor General Svyatoslav Piskun said Wednesday that he would fight in the courts to keep his job if fired -- an apparent warning to President Viktor Yushchenko.

"One must not fire a person, even a street cleaner without legal grounds," Piskun said.

Yushchenko last week appointed one of Piskun's biggest critics, Serhiy Holovatiy, as justice minister, and Holovatiy has since called for Piskun's ouster. Yushchenko has not commented publicly on the spat between the two men.

This week, Piskun's office opened two investigations targeting Petro Poroshenko, a close ally of the president and former head of the Security and Defense Council. (AP)

Andijan Uprising Trial

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan -- A witness in the trial of 15 suspects charged with staging an uprising in Uzbekistan said organizers killed their comrades to tarnish the Uzbek government.

"Our leaders ordered us to finish off our own wounded," said Kabiljon Samatov, a witness in the trial who has also been detained on charges of involvement in the revolt. "[Government] soldiers didn't fire, and we needed to prove to the world that there was a bloody suppression of the revolt."

The statement was the latest testimony denouncing the suspects in a trial that rights groups says is tightly choreographed by the government to deflect blame for the bloodshed in Andijan in May. (AP)

Pole Returns to Belarus

WARSAW -- Poland returned its ambassador, Tadeusz Pawlak, to Belarus on Tuesday, three months after recalling him to Warsaw following a chill in relations with the country, the Foreign Ministry said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Checko told the Polish news agency PAP that Poland was satisfied that the temporary withdrawal had sent the intended message about displeasure with the violation of democracy in Belarus.

The decision also came because "the international situation changed" and the Belarussian opposition was able to appoint a candidate for next year's presidential elections. (AP)

Pulikovsky on North Korea

Presidential envoy Konstantin Pulikovsky said Wednesday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il had confirmed his country would not develop nuclear weapons, in line with an accord reached last month, Interfax reported.

Pulikovsky recently went to North Korea for the 60th anniversary of the country's Communist Party. (AP)

Lavrov Scorns Sanctions

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov poured scorn on European Union sanctions against Uzbekistan on Wednesday, saying such measures against Russia's Central Asian ally would have no effect.

"This is a purely political instrument that has shown its lack of effectiveness in Iraq and other regions," Lavrov told reporters after a closed-door speech to the State Duma, Interfax reported.

The EU last month imposed sanctions on Uzbekistan for refusing an international probe into the deaths of perhaps hundreds of people in the Andijan uprising in May. (Reuters)

Rowdy Soccer Fans

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia -- Rowdy Russian soccer fans broke shop windows in the Slovak capital's downtown area and eight people were injured in clashes, a Slovak police spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Some 50 Russian-speaking people were involved in incidents late Tuesday. Among those injured were three Slovaks. Three people had to be hospitalized, said police spokeswoman Silvia Mihalikova. Interfax reported that two of the Russian soccer fans were stabbed but not in immediate danger.

Russian and Slovak soccer fans are gathering in Bratislava for Wednesday's World Cup soccer qualifying match, which was to begin at 10:30 p.m. Moscow time. (AP)

Newspaper Planned

Ukrainian media magnate Vadim Rabinovich will launch the Novoye Russkoye Slovo newspaper in Russia in January, Sergei Gryzunov, the editor of the new edition, said Wednesday, reported.

Novoye Russkoye Slovo is a Russian emigre newspaper that has been published in the United States for 95 years and is now owned by Rabinovich.

Rabinovich last week sold the Moskovsiye Novosti weekly, which he had acquired in June, to Arkady Gaidamak, a wealthy Moscow-born businessman with four passports and a controversial past. (MT)

Appeal to Illarionov

The parents of 39 National Bolshevik Party members have appealed to presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov for help in the ongoing trial of their children, Interfax reported.

In a letter addressed to Illarionov, the parents said the 39 activists had hoped to meet with him on Dec. 14, believing he was "a civilized, European-thinking government official." The activists are on trial for briefly seizing a presidential administration office that day.

"On Dec. 14, 2004, our children put their hope in you. Today we, their parents, put all our hopes in you," the letter said. (MT)

Ukraine-NATO Exercises

YAVORIV MILITARY TRAINING FACILITY, Ukraine -- Hundreds of military and civilian personnel from Ukraine, the United States and 10 other countries practiced joint responses to a mock chemical attack as part of a NATO-sponsored exercise Wednesday.

Evert Somer, a NATO official helping coordinate the exercises, said the 750 personnel -- including 250 Ukrainians -- were working to overcome language barriers and cooperate with the unfamiliar tactics and practices of different countries. "The emphasis is not in technical training but in communication and coordination," Somer said.

The exercises began Monday, and Russia sent three observers. (AP)