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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Hundreds of Forged Papers

TALLINN, Estonia -- Estonian police detained four men and seized hundreds of forged documents, including Estonian, Finnish and Norwegian passports, a police spokesman said Tuesday.

Police simultaneously raided 20 locations throughout Estonia on Nov. 1 and seized hundreds of high quality forgeries, computers and printing machines, spokesman Aivar Pau said.

Police believe the gang may have sold thousands of forgeries over the past 18 months, mainly to Russians wanting to live in Europe, he said. (AP)

Voronezh Police Assailed

A Voronezh prosecutor on Tuesday assailed regional police officials for not doing enough to counter the growing number of crimes against foreigners, Itar-Tass reported.

Vasily Khromov said the region saw 106 attacks against foreigners since the beginning of this year -- a 70 percent increase over last year. He said most of the crimes against foreigners were economic, such as theft and robbery.

Meanwhile, Interfax reported that police suspect two radical groups of involvement in the recent murder of a Peruvian student in Voronezh. (AP)

Surge in Drug Smuggling

The withdrawal of Russian troops who guarded the Tajik-Afghan border for years has led to an increase in drug smuggling from Afghanistan, Federal Drug Control Service chief Viktor Cherkesov said Tuesday.

Cherkesov said "abnormally large" hauls consisting of hundreds of kilograms of heroin had been confiscated in Siberia and the Volga River area -- along one of the routes for drugs smuggled from Afghanistan to Europe -- since the handover, Interfax reported.

He said Russia planned to establish an office in Afghanistan next year.

Cherkesov also said a sharp post-Soviet rise in Russian drug users ended in the past 12 to 18 months. (AP)

International Court Judge

UNITED NATIONS -- The United Nations elected Leonid Skotnikov, Russia's former UN Ambassador in Geneva, as one of five new judges to the International Court of Justice.

The 191-member General Assembly and the 15-member Security Council were required to elect the same five judges -- and it took five ballots in the General Assembly and six in the Security Council for both bodies to agree on Monday.

Skotnikov also has served as Russia's representative on the Conference on Disarmament.

The other four judges are from the United States, Mexico, Morocco and New Zealand. (AP)

Norway Ambassador on Fish

The Norwegian ambassador on Tuesday welcomed a Russian criminal probe of the captain of a trawler that fled the Norwegian coast guard with two Norwegian inspectors trapped on board, and urged stronger joint action to protect Arctic fishing resources.

Ambassador Oyvind Nordsletten deplored the incident, adding that Norway and Russia must cooperate in a good-neighborly way to prevent overfishing.

"If we don't react to rude violations, both nations will suffer," he said. (AP)

Uzbekistan Not on List

WASHINGTON -- The United States has left Uzbekistan off a list of countries it considers serious violators of religious freedom, despite appeals by human rights groups to include it on the annual list.

White House officials said the State Department had decided to leave the list of worst offenders unchanged when it was to publish its report on Tuesday, which opens the named states up to possible sanctions. Vietnam, Myanmar, China, North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Eritrea were again to be designated "countries of particular concern," the officials said.

The State Department ignored a recommendation from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a Congress-funded, bipartisan agency, which asked that Uzbekistan be included because, it said, its record was deteriorating. (Reuters)

EU Presses Uzbekistan

BRUSSELS -- The European Union on Tuesday demanded Uzbekistan stop its "harassment and detention" of human rights activists, including jailed opposition leader Sanjar Umarov, head of the Sunshine Uzbekistan opposition group.

The 25-nation bloc said it was "alarmed at reports of the unacceptable conditions in which Mr. Umarov … is being held."

Uzbek opposition activists fear that Umarov, like other vocal opponents to the Uzbek government, is being drugged in an effort to mentally disable him. (AP)