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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Officer Cleared of Murder

An officer accused of killing six Chechen civilians was cleared of murder Wednesday by a court that ruled he had been following orders, angering even pro-Moscow Chechens.

The ruling follows Eduard Ulman's acquittal by a jury last week -- the second time he and three fellow servicemen have been acquitted despite witnesses saying they shot the six Chechens and blew up their bodies to hide the traces. (Reuters)

2 Killed in Bank Robbery

Two would-be thieves were shot to death by security guards as they tried to rob a commercial bank, reports said.

Two security guards were wounded during the attempted robbery, which occurred about 9 p.m. Tuesday, Itar-Tass said. It did not name the bank. (AP)

Deputies Join United Russia

Eleven State Duma deputies from the People's Party have joined United Russia.

The deputies were elected through the single-mandate system, which is due to be abolished under a bill that passed its second reading in the Duma last month. (MT)

Tajik Ex-Drug Tsar Charged

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan -- The former head of Tajikistan's UN-backed anti-narcotics agency has been charged with murder and plotting to overthrow the government, an official said Wednesday.

Lieutenant General Gafor Mirzoyev, former head of the Drug Control Agency, faces more than 176 criminal charges, said the chief investigator with the military prosecutor's office.

"The interrogation is continuing every day," the investigator, Abdukadir Nurov, said. (AP)

Opposition Leader Jailed

MINSK -- A Belarussian opposition leader was jailed for 10 days for contempt of court Tuesday after he defied the judge during his trial on charges of organizing protests against President Alexander Lukashenko.

Social Democratic Party leader Nikolai Statkevich was ordered jailed after he refused to answer questions or stand when addressed by the judge in his trial in Minsk's Central Court. He also said in court that the process was not a "real trial" but a politically motivated punishment, adding that "the verdict will be determined by Lukashenko's administration."

Statkevich is being tried over protests against alleged fraud in a referendum last fall that will allow Lukashenko to seek a third term in 2006 and run in subsequent elections. (AP)

Ukraine Sex Trafficking Up

KIEV -- The number of Ukrainian minors who have become victims of commercial sexual exploitation soared this year, an official said Tuesday.

More than 2,000 Ukrainian children and teenagers have become victims of the sex trade so far this year, a 60-percent increase compared with the same period last year, said Mikhaylo Tsymbaliuk, a top Interior Ministry official.

"It is a big tragedy for the state," Tsymbaliuk said at a news conference in Kiev.

The Interior Ministry announced earlier this year that combating human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children would a key priority.

It also recently formed a special department tasked with combating human trafficking. (AP)