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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

14 Suspected Killers Held

Moscow police have rounded up 14 members of a suspected Ukrainian criminal gang believed to have carried out 50 contract killings over the span of a decade in Ukraine, the Interior Ministry said Monday.

The suspects, who include the group's alleged ringleader, had been hiding out in Moscow for three years, Channel One television reported.

They are accused of involvement in 60 crimes, including 50 killings in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk amid a series of turf wars between 1991 and 2002, the Interior Ministry said, Itar-Tass reported. It said their extradition to Ukraine would be decided on within the next two months. (AP)

Georgia Closes Airspace

TBILISI, Georgia -- Georgia has closed its airspace to Russian military aircraft, officials said Monday, adding a new irritant to relations still raw from a dispute over gas supplies.

Georgian air traffic controllers said Russia owed $1 million in unpaid fees for their services.

"It's not a political, but a purely economic, decision. We'll open the airspace when the debt is repaid," said a spokeswoman for the Georgian air traffic control department. (Reuters)

Population Shrinks to 142M

Russia's population fell to 142.8 million, a drop of 675,100 people, or 0.47 percent, in the first 11 months of last year, Interfax reported Monday, citing the State Statistics Service.

In comparison, the population shrank by 683,400 people over the same period in 2004, the statistics agency said.

From January through November last year, there were 1,341,400 births and 2,112,200 million deaths.

The same period in 2004 saw 1,379,700 births and 2,095,800 deaths. Some 160,900 people moved to Russia last year, while 65,200 moved abroad. About 106,300 moved to Russia in 2004, and 73,600 left. (MT)

Yeltsin Rules Out Uprising

Former President Boris Yeltsin said in comments published Monday that a peaceful revolution like the ones that swept Georgia and Ukraine would not occur in Russia.

"Absolutely not. We do not have the political or national prerequisites for that," Yeltsin said in an interview with the journal Itogi ahead of his 75th birthday, on Wednesday.

Yeltsin also praised President Vladimir Putin's leadership, saying, "I tried to find a man whose fundamental values are freedom, the market and progress together with civilized states." Yeltsin turned the presidency over to Putin when he resigned on Dec. 31, 1999.

Yeltsin told Itogi that he believed the Constitution would not be changed to allow Putin to serve a third term and that a new president would be elected in 2008. (MT)

Putin Touts Kosovo Model

Talks on settling the Kosovo conflict should provide a model for tackling conflicts in former Soviet nations, President Vladimir Putin said Monday.

Putin told Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov -- who is to attend meetings in London of the international contact group on Kosovo -- that decisions reached during the talks should have a "universal character." (AP)

National Bolsheviks Denied

The Justice Ministry's Federal Registration Service denied registration to the National Bolshevik Party on Monday, RIA-Novosti reported.

The agency said Monday that the group's regional divisions illegally admitted members under the age of 18 and that it illegally discriminated on the basis of ethnicity, among other things, RIA-Novosti said. (MT)

5 Suspected Rebels Killed

MAKHACHKALA -- Police and security forces clashed Monday with suspected rebels in Dagestan, killing five, the Interior Ministry said.

Units from various law enforcement agencies surrounded the suspects in a building in the center of Khasavyurt near a highway leading from the city. Five were killed, including one identified as Chechen field commander Lechi Eskiyev.

Eskiyev was wearing an explosive-laden belt and a homemade bomb was discovered in the house where he had been hiding out, officials said. (AP)

EU Threatens Sanctions

BRUSSELS -- European Union foreign ministers said Monday they were ready to take sanctions against Belarus if the March presidential election was deemed to be rigged.

In a statement, the 25 ministers said they were ready "to take further appropriate restrictive measures against the responsible individuals in the event of failure to uphold international standards in the electoral process."

Belarussian opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich met with the EU ministers in Brussels on Monday. (AP)