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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Belarus' Rights Record

A presidential human rights body has accused Belarus of a raft of abuses, including a crackdown on political opponents, nongovernment organizations, independent media and electoral violations, Interfax reported Thursday.

The group, the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights, said the situation in Belarus was of "deep concern" and was harming Russia's ties with Western Europe and the international community because of the planned political and economic union between Minsk and Moscow.

The statement was surprising, as the Kremlin has not criticized Belarus' human rights record. (AP)

Population Shrinks 0.2%

The population dropped by 286,600 in the first four months of the year, the State Statistics Service said Thursday.

The service said in a statement that the population dropped by 0.2 percent from Jan. 1 and stood at 143.2 million as of May 1. The service said that the number of births in 76 of the 89 regions decreased, while the number of deaths in 50 regions grew. The number of deaths on average exceeded the number of births by 70 percent, it said. (AP)

29 Uzbeks to Be Deported

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- Kyrgyzstan will deport 29 Uzbek asylum-seekers with criminal records, the country's top prosecutor said Thursday, in defiance of UN calls to halt forced returns.

"Among the 29 there are terrorists and religious extremists. They have been convicted several times," Kyrgyz Prosecutor General Azimbek Beknazarov said, adding that Kyrgyzstan was obligated under a treaty to extradite criminal suspects. (AP)

Akayev Rejects Meeting

Former Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev has refused to meet with Kyrgyz prosecutors who arrived in Moscow to question him and his family, but could answer their questions in writing, his lawyer said Thursday. (AP)

Ambassador Dies

WARSAW -- Russia's ambassador to Poland, Nikolai Afanasevski, died Thursday at a Warsaw hospital after a long illness, the embassy said.

Afanasevski, 64, was "seriously ill" and had been hospitalized for a few weeks, embassy spokesman Wladyslaw Vibornov said. His duties were recently carried out by his deputy, Vladimir Siedikh. (AP)

Kaliningrad Summit

The leaders of Russia, France and Germany will hold a trilateral meeting on July 3 in Kaliningrad, the Kremlin announced Thursday.

President Vladimir Putin, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der have held similar three-way summits in recent years. (AP)

Kommersant Warning

A Moscow arbitration court on Wednesday rejected an appeal by Kommersant newspaper against a warning it received for a Feb. 7 interview with Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov, Interfax reported.

The Federal Service for Media Law Compliance and Cultural Heritage's warning, issued in April in accordance with a 2002 anti-extremism law, said the article, in which Maskhadov called for a cease-fire, contained "signs of extremism" and gave terrorists the chance to deliver an ultimatum to the authorities. (MT)

PACE Resolution on Russia

STRASBOURG, France -- The Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly urged Russia to formally abolish the death penalty, withdraw its troops from Moldova and prosecute those responsible for human rights breaches, notably in Chechnya.

In a resolution Wednesday, the assembly also called on Russia to strengthen its judiciary and improve its cooperation with the European Court of Human Rights. (AP)

Landslide Search Ends

KIEV -- Rescuers called off the search for more victims of a landslide in Ukraine, saying Thursday that they were confident no one else was buried under the tons of soil that poured onto a Black Sea beach.

The landslide on Tuesday just outside Sevastopol killed a 16-year-old Russian girl and seriously injured a 21-year-old Russian, emergency officials said. Three other people suffered slight cuts and bruises. (AP)

Putin's Japan Visit

TOKYO -- President Vladimir Putin will visit Japan in November for talks with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, an official said Thursday, with the leaders expected to negotiate a peace treaty to formally end World War II hostilities between the two countries.

The agreement came during talks between Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who met in Brussels late Wednesday. (AP)

Yushchenko: Poison Quick

KIEV -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said Thursday that new information suggested the dioxin that poisoned him last September was quick-acting.

"Investigators have received good information related to the dose, the formula of the poison, how it works and how it can begin to act in a period of 1 1/2 to two hours," he said. (AP)

Putin's Rating Still High

More than two-thirds of Russians are unhappy with the way their government is performing, but a majority still think President Vladimir Putin is doing good job, according to an opinion poll published Thursday.

A June poll of 1,600 people nationwide by the Levada Center showed that 71 percent were dissatisfied with the government compared with 54 percent a year ago. Putin received a 66 percent approval rating, compared with 72 percent in June last year. (Reuters)