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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Bad Air Quality Thursday

Harmful emissions in Moscow's air are expected to exceed permissible levels by 2.5 times for several hours Thursday, a jump that often occurs when dry and windless weather sets in, the federal weather bureau said Wednesday.

A warm front that arrived in Moscow on Tuesday has blocked rain and wind that would normally disperse emissions from traffic and factories, bureau spokeswoman Natalya Yershova said. Rain, however, is expected Thursday afternoon, she said.

Moscow's air quality was also bad on Wednesday, with harmful emissions such as nitrogen dioxide and phenol exceeding permissible levels by 1.5 times. Levels were even higher in the area around the All-Russian Exhibition Center, the bureau said. (MT)

U.S. Rejects Pullout Call

WASHINGTON -- The United States rejected a call from an alliance led by Russia and China to set a deadline for withdrawing its forces from Central Asian countries.

U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan have been based in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, at a summit in Kazakhstan, said Tuesday that a withdrawal date should be set since active fighting in Afghanistan has decreased. (AP)

Special Brigades on Border

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Russia was forming two special Army brigades equipped with new helicopters and staffed by volunteer professional soldiers trained in mountaineering to protect the border with Georgia.

"Our plans for the formation of two mountain brigades are linked to the difficult situation on the Russian-Georgian border and the lack of proper controls," Ivanov said Tuesday, adding that 2.4 billion rubles ($83 million) had been allocated in 2005 for the brigades. (AP)

Baku Jails Foreigners

BAKU, Azerbaijan -- Azerbaijan said Wednesday that it had jailed a group of Afghan, British, Jordanian and Russian citizens on suspicion of plotting terrorist acts.

A court sitting in closed session last month convicted the nine men of planning terrorism, of illegal arms possession, crossing borders illegally and of forging documents, the National Security Ministry said. (Reuters)

U.S. Rights Group Targeted

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan -- Uzbek authorities have filed criminal charges against a former director and another employee of a U.S.-based media rights and training group, the organization said Wednesday.

Internews Network, which teaches journalists and supports press freedom, said the two were charged Monday with conspiracy to illegally produce videos and publish materials. (AP)

Vershbow Leaves Optimistic

U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, who is soon to leave his post in Russia, said he would depart with optimism about the country's prospects for democratic development.

"We worry that democracy is still on a shaky footing in this country," Vershbow said at a forum sponsored by the Carnegie Moscow Center late Tuesday.

But, he said, "I leave Russia in a couple of weeks as an optimist. … We're very encouraged by statements by President [Vladimir] Putin, including this year's message to the Federal Assembly regarding Russia's adherence to the European tradition of freedom, human rights, justice and democracy."

Vershbow's new posting has not been announced. (AP)