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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Probe Into Irkutsk Clash

Authorities have opened criminal proceedings after a violent clash in Irkutsk last week between police and a large group of Chinese construction workers that left people injured on both sides, the Foreign Ministry said.

The ministry said Russia regarded the May 11 incident with the "utmost seriousness," and would carry out a thorough investigation.

Irkutsk prosecutors opened two preliminary criminal cases -- one against the Chinese citizens for resisting police, and another against police officers for abuse of power. The Russian Embassy in Beijing said the Chinese workers had offered resistance, attacking a police patrol car with metal objects, wooden boards, bricks and stones, and injuring a number of officers. It said police also had caused injuries to several Chinese. (AP)

6 Injured in Navy Base Fire

ST. PETERSBURG -- A fire broke out at a Navy base about 30 kilometers west of St. Petersburg on Tuesday, setting off ammunition explosions that injured six people, officials said.

One of the injured had burns on over 40 percent of her body, said Andrei Alyabyev, spokesman for the St. Petersburg and Leningrad regional emergency service. All the injured were workers on the Kronstadt base.

The fire started in a section of the base where depth charges are stored, and Navy spokesman Captain Igor Dygalo said it was caused by "careless handling" of the charges. (AP)

$11,000 Grenade Reward

TBILISI, Georgia -- Georgian police are offering a reward of 20,000 lari ($11,100) for information that could shed light on how a grenade ended up on the Tbilisi square where U.S. President George W. Bush gave a speech last week, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday.

"We guarantee anonymity to people who can help establish the identify of the person who brought the grenade to Freedom Square," said Guram Donadze, spokesman for the Georgian Interior Ministry.

The ministry said the grenade had been found near the government stands, wrapped in a red kerchief. (AP)

Chinese Stopped at Border

Border guards fired nine times into the air to stop vehicles carrying 27 Chinese who were trying to slip across the border into Ukraine, Itar-Tass reported Tuesday.

No one was injured in the incident, the report said, citing a spokesman for the Federal Security Service. The report did not specify when the incident occurred or where along the 1,575kilometer border.

Russia and Ukraine are prime routes for people from Asia trying to enter Western Europe illegally. (AP)

Saakashvili Eyes Bases

WARSAW -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili struck a conciliatory tone in a dispute with Moscow over its army bases, saying Tuesday that he and President Vladimir Putin were keen to solve the conflict.

"We agreed on the highest level with Putin that we should move [on this issue]. I know we want to move," Saakashvili told reporters on the sidelines of a Council of Europe summit. "Putin has no intention of stirring this up and raising the temperature."

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday warned against turning what Russia sees as a technical problem into a political dispute. (Reuters)

More Nuclear Reductions

UNITED NATIONS -- Russia is prepared to reduce its strategic nuclear arsenal below 1,500 warheads -- less than the level agreed with the United States -- but Moscow is concerned about nuclear threats on its border, two senior officials said.

Anatoly Antonov, director of the Foreign Ministry's department for security and disarmament, and Lieutenant General Vladimir Verhovtsev, deputy director of the Defense Ministry's department of nuclear safety and security, stressed Moscow's commitment to nuclear disarmament provided Russia's security is assured. (AP)

Space Chief Reappointed

Federal Space Agency chief Anatoly Perminov, who replaced his longtime predecessor a year ago, has had his term extended for another five years, the agency said Monday.

The appointment of Perminov, a colonel general who previously commanded the Space Forces, signaled a greater role for the military in Russia's space program. (AP)

Sex Trafficking Charges

LOS ANGELES -- A Russian woman suspected of forcing her 18-year-old niece to work as a prostitute has pleaded innocent to U.S. charges of sex trafficking.

Alena Okhotina, 35, was ordered held without bail on Monday. She could face a life sentence if convicted.

Investigators said Okhotina paid $6,000 to obtain a fraudulent visa for her niece and then forced her to have sex with men in February 2003 in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Her niece, who was 18 at the time and had come from a small town near St. Petersburg, told investigators Okhotina hid her passport, destroyed her plane ticket home and subjected her to regular beatings, threats and rape by strangers. She has since returned to Russia. (AP)

Call for Troops to Leave Iraq

ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- Kazakhstan should consider pulling its 27-member contingent of soldiers from Iraq when the group's current mandate expires in July, Kazakh Defense Minister Mukhtar Altynbayev said Tuesday.

The Defense Ministry's press service stressed that the minister was expressing his "personal opinion." (AP)

Moldova's Population Falls

CHISINAU, Moldova -- The population of Moldova has fallen by 400,000, reflecting a high number of Moldovans leaving to work abroad and an aging population, according to the results of a census published Tuesday.

The census, taken in October, shows that the population of Moldova, minus the residents of the self-declared republic of Transdnestr is 3.4 million, the Department for Statistics said.

The last census taken in 1989, when Moldova was part of the Soviet Union, showed a population of 4.5 million, of which 3.8 million lived in Moldova proper and 700,000 lived in Transdnestr. (AP)

Pinocchio Postcard for Putin

WARSAW -- A Polish magazine is calling on its readers to send President Vladimir Putin a picture postcard depicting him as the long-nosed, lying fairy- tale character Pinocchio for presenting a "Stalinist version of history."

The campaign by Wprost weekly comes amid a rise of anti-Russian sentiment in Poland, which was most recently stoked by Putin's May 9 Red Square speech in which he failed to condemn the 1939 pact that led to the Soviet occupation of Poland.

In response, this week's issue of the magazine comes with a pre-addressed postcard that asks Putin to apologize for failing to condemn the Nazi-Soviet pact. (AP)