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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Russia Backs OSCE Budget

VIENNA -- Moscow backed a budget for the OSCE rights and security watchdog on Thursday after months of wrangling over the future of the body, which has criticized elections in Russia and other former Soviet republics, diplomats said.

Russia's refusal to approve the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's 2005 budget had restricted the Vienna-based institution's operations and, according to the OSCE's chief, threatened to paralyze it.

"An OSCE budget is agreed," a European diplomat said on condition of anonymity, adding later that the budget had been passed at the Permanent Council, the decision-making body of the 55-nation organization. (Reuters)

Tbilisi Steps Up Pressure

TBILISI, Georgia -- If Russian and Georgian negotiators fail to make progress in talks, Georgia's parliament will order the government to take tough steps to ensure Russian bases are closed by Jan. 1, parliamentary speaker Nino Burdzhanadze said Thursday.

Georgian lawmakers voted unanimously earlier this year to call on their government to demand that Russia close its military bases in Georgia by 2006 -- three years before the deadline the Russians are demanding -- if the two sides fail to agree by Sunday on a timetable for the withdrawal.

The chairman of the State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, Konstantin Kosachyov, said Burdzhanadze's statement "is unquestionably blackmail and the expression of an unfriendly approach toward Russia," Interfax reported. (AP)

MiG-29 Crashes, Pilot Dead

An Air Force fighter jet crashed Thursday, killing the pilot, a Defense Ministry spokesman said.

The MiG-29 crashed in the region of Tver, about 250 kilometers northwest of Moscow, he said on condition of anonymity, without giving further details.

Air Force spokesman Colonel Alexnader Drobyshevsky said MiG-29 flights have been suspended pending an investigation into the crash, Interfax reported. (AP)

Conductor Gergiev Robbed

Valery Gergiev, chief conductor of St. Petersburg's renowned Mariinsky Theater, was robbed of 500,000 rubles ($18,000) in valuables in Moscow, the city police department said Thursday.

The goods were taken from Gergiev's dressing room at Moscow's Tchaikovsky Conservatory on Tuesday, police spokeswoman Yelena Perfilova said.

News reports said the items taken included a gold watch and cellular telephones. (AP)

UN Meeting in Abkhazia

SUKHUMI, Georgia -- High-ranking officials from Georgia and the separatist region of Abkhazia met with a United Nations envoy on Thursday to discuss security issues in the tense region.

The meeting was to focus on such themes as cooperation between law enforcement authorities, minimizing bellicose propaganda and providing maps pinpointing the location of minefields to a British de-mining organization, Interfax reported.

The participants agreed to meet again in mid-June, and they agreed to establish a joint group to investigate reports of cease-fire violations, Interfax said. (AP)

Transdnestr Probe Opened

Moldovan prosecutors have opened an investigation into suspected weapons smuggling in the eastern breakaway province of Transdnestr, officials said Thursday. The investigation comes after the British weekly Sunday Times said an undercover reporter working for the newspaper arranged to buy three radioactive rockets from Transdnestr. (AP)

Latvian Killer Gets Life

RIGA, Latvia -- The most prolific serial killer in modern Latvian history was sentenced Thursday to life in prison after being convicted of murdering 13 elderly women, prosecutors said.

Kaspars Petrovs, 27, was also convicted of robbery and inflicting serious bodily injury, prosecution spokeswoman Dzintra Vitolina said.

Investigators said Petrovs, who had been homeless in Riga for three years, followed his victims home and entered their apartments by force or by posing as a worker with the country's state-owned natural gas company. Once inside, they said, Petrovs would kill his victims and rob them. (AP)

Flight to Almaty Evacuated

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- About 200 passengers were evacuated from a Boeing-737 plane that had traveled from Moscow to Almaty on Thursday because of a ticking package found in the cargo hold, the Almaty Rescue Service said.

Specialists called in from the Kazakh Interior Ministry examined the suspicious package and found it contained a children's toy clock that had been sent by post from Greece to the Kazakh city of Petropavlovsk. (AP)

For the Record

Russia plans to start shipments of enriched uranium fuel to Iran late this year or early next to start up a Russian-built nuclear power plant there, Federal Atomic Energy Agency chief Alexander Rumyantsev said Wednesday. (Reuters)

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk on Wednesday dismissed suggestions by European Union officials that his country should not rush seeking membership of the bloc. (Reuters)

The United States FBI will interview Mykola Melnichenko, a former bodyguard of former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, as part of the investigation into the slaying of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, Ukraine's State Security Service said Wednesday. (AP)

Moldovan Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev traveled to Ukraine on Thursday to discuss ways to improve border control with Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. (AP)

Georgian Parliament Speaker Nino Burdzhanadze departed Thursday for a trip to Latvia that is expected to focus on Latvia's experience in bringing the country into NATO and the European Union. (AP)

Supporters of 23 businessmen being tried in an eastern Uzbek city on extremism charges have suspended their protest as they await the verdict, a defendant's relative said Thursday. (AP)