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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Chechen Vote Results

ROSTOV-ON-DON -- United Russia has won the largest number of seats in Chechnya's new parliament, the Chechen election chief said Saturday.

United Russia won 33 of the 58 seats up for grabs in the region's two-chamber parliament in the Nov. 27 elections. Next came the Communist Party, which won six seats in the two chambers, and the liberal Union of Right Forces, which won four seats. The remainder of the seats were divided up among independent candidates. (AP)

Hostage Incident in Urals

A man armed with an assault rifle surrendered to police early Friday in Yekaterinburg after freeing five hostages he had held for about two hours.

Andrei Novogorodov, 29, had entered the building housing Channel Four, the city's largest television company, late Thursday, taken five employees, including two security guards, hostage and fired five shots at a closed door, Interfax reported. He was demanding a meeting with his wife, who was an employee of the station. (AP)

Khodorkovsky in the Dark

Mikhail Khodorkovsky's lawyer said his client was being deliberately deprived of information in prison, comparing him to Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov.

"The authorities wanted one thing -- to isolate Mikhail Borisovich as tightly as possible from public and political activities," Yury Shmidt told reporters.

Shmidt said Khodorkovsky was not receiving the newspapers he requested and had little opportunity to watch the news on television. (Reuters)

Putin Euro Judo President

Russian President Vladimir Putin was made an honorary president of the European Judo Union on Saturday, the governing body said.

EJU president Marius Vizer presented Putin with a special certificate at the Euro Judo Open Championships in Moscow.

"It's an honor for us to have the leader of so great a country associated with the European Judo Union," said Vizer. "I think it's good for the image of our sport."

Putin, 53, competed in judo at the national level in the early 1970s and is also honorary president of the Javara-Neva St. Petersburg judo club, which is a four-time European champion. (Reuters)

Democracy Forum Unites

KIEV -- Nine presidents from Baltic and Black Sea nations pledged Friday to strengthen democracy in a region traditionally considered Russia's neighborhood.

Russia did not participate in the forum of the Community of Democratic Choice, but leaders insisted that their endeavor should not be seen as a challenge to the Kremlin.

"We gathered to unite, not to divide," said Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who hosted the forum bringing together officials from 23 countries. The presidents of the three Baltic republics attended, together with the presidents of Georgia, Macedonia, Moldova, Slovenia and Romania. (AP)

Azeris Postpone Protest

BAKU, Azerbaijan -- The opposition coalition Azadliq on Friday called off a planned weekend protest against the outcome of last month's parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan, which it claims were fraudulent.

The Council of Europe, meanwhile, might consider suspending Azerbaijan due to election violations, European lawmakers looking into the vote said.

The Popular Front party said that authorities had given the coalition permission to hold Saturday's rally at a remote venue outside the Baku city limits, and that Azadliq had requested a more central site for a rally next weekend.

On Friday, the new parliament convened for the first time, with six of eight opposition lawmakers boycotting, and all but one of the 106 legislators present voted to make Oqtay Asadov, an ally of President Ilham Aliyev, speaker. (AP)

Belarus Penalties Approved

MINSK -- The Belarussian parliament approved a law Friday intended to curb attempts at popular upheaval like Ukraine's Orange Revolution.

Members gave final approval by a vote of 97-4 to a law setting down tough penalties for anyone convicted of inciting demonstrations, joining illegal organizations or spreading information deemed harmful to national interests.

The U.S. State Department urged the assembly to reconsider its decision and reject the draft legislation. "Adopting such undemocratic legislation could incur serious consequences for Belarussian authorities," spokesman Sean McCormack said. (Reuters)

Bush Grenade Trial to Open

TBILISI, Georgia -- The Tbilisi City Court said Friday that the trial of a man accused of trying to assassinate U.S. President George W. Bush would open Monday.

Vladimir Arutyunian faces terrorism and murder charges stemming from the May 10 incident in Tbilisi and the killing of a policeman in a shootout before his arrest in July. The charges carry a punishment of life imprisonment. Bush and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili were addressing a rally in Tbilisi when the grenade landed about 30 meters away. It did not explode. (AP)

Envoys Slam Tajik Airline

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan -- Flying on the aging Soviet-era aircraft of state monopoly Tajikistan Airlines has become too much to bear for foreign diplomats based in the country.

The ambassadors of the United States, Britain, France, Japan, Turkey, and Switzerland wrote an open letter to Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov on Friday asking him to address Tajik Air's most glaring service problems.

They complained about difficulties buying tickets, getting onward connections, the lack of compensation for delays and canceled flights, decrepit airport facilities and the need to increase "respect for passengers." (Reuters)

For the Record

Abubakir Baibatyrov, former chairman of Chechnya's committee for compensatory payments, has been arrested on suspicion of diverting $520,000 intended for families who suffered property damage during fighting. (AP)

Austria's Wolfgang Schuessel told President Vladimir Putin on Friday that the EU would concentrate on cooperation with Russia in energy, transportation, environment and security once Austria took the helm in 2006. (AP)