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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Council of Europe Dues

Russia is considering reducing the dues it pays to the Council of Europe, in the latest expression of Moscow's dissatisfaction with the continent's human rights arbiter.

"Judging from the 10-year experience of Russia's membership in the Council of Europe, one can unambiguously conclude that our … high budgetary contribution in the organization does not give an adequate return," said Sergei Ryabkov, a senior Foreign Ministry official. He said Russia would pay more than $31.8 million this year. (AP)

Suspect in Tal Slaying

Authorities have charged a suspect in the murder of the federal government's former bankruptcy agency chief, Interfax reported Friday.

Georgy Tal, who headed the Federal Bankruptcy Service until 2001, was shot in his office building in Moscow in April 2004. Citing an unidentified law enforcement official, Interfax reported that a Moscow region resident in his late 30s was detained several days ago. (AP)

Top Cops Sign Protocol

ROME -- The Interior ministers of Italy and Russia signed an agreement Friday to cooperate in fighting crime, defending civil liberties and thwarting possible terror attacks by sharing investigators, experts and resources.

The deal, signed by Giuseppe Pisanu and Rashid Nurgaliyev, pertains to the "fight against international crime and the defense of the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of the citizens of both states," Italy's Interior Ministry said.

Nurgaliyev praised the envisioned cooperation, saying Italian investigators would travel to Moscow to work with Russian police on Wednesday's fatal stabbing of an Italian businessman in an apparent robbery. (AP)

Lavrov on Anti-Semitism

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar on Friday and urged international cooperation to combat racism and anti-Semitism.

With Russia facing scrutiny over a rise in hate crimes after a knife attack at a Moscow synagogue, Lavrov emphasized that religious and ethnic intolerance also existed in other countries, and said joint efforts were needed to fight it.

He stressed that other countries were likewise grappling with violence reflecting social troubles, singling out school shootings in the United States and seeming to liken them to anti-Semitic and nationalist violence in Russia. (AP)

Moldova Jailing Criticized

A 10-year jail sentence handed down to Moldova's former defense minister raises doubts over human rights standards in the country, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Saturday.

"The severity of the sentence -- 10 years -- is striking and raises serious questions about upholding human rights norms," the ministry said.

Valeriu Pasat was sentenced last week on charges of selling warplanes too cheaply to the United States. (Reuters)

Azeri Clash Anniversary

BAKU, Azerbaijan -- Tens of thousands of Azeris laid red carnations Friday on the tombs of people who died 16 years ago in clashes with the Soviet Army, some of the most violent events surrounding the Soviet Union's breakup.

After filing through the memorial to the dead, known as Martyrs' Alley, mourners laid the flowers on the streets where victims died trying to prevent Soviet tanks from moving in. A total of 134 people were killed. (AP)

Latvia Marks Crackdown

RIGA, Latvia -- Latvians on Friday commemorated the 15th anniversary of a 1991 Soviet crackdown that left five people dead but failed to crush the Baltic country's independence movement.

President Vaira Vike-Freiberga visited the graves of some of those killed in the attack and later laid flowers at the Freedom Monument in Riga. (AP)

Bare Bottom, Red Faces

TALLINN -- Estonian President Arnold Ruutel has apologized for raucous parties held in the palace by his two teenage granddaughters, after the media published photos of a boy's naked bottom and apparent underage drinking.

The photographs include one of a boy leaving a shower room, naked except for a belt with a piece of cloth hanging from it. The door to the room is held open by a clothed young woman.

"He was not completely naked," a presidential spokeswoman said. "And it was a boy not a girl. That [a naked girl] would be completely different."

The president's grandchildren Maria, 13, and Helena, 15, live with their grandparents. Their mother has told the local media she has debts and cannot afford to care for them. (Reuters)

For the Record

French President Jacques Chirac urged the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on Friday to include Russia and emerging nations as members. (AP)

The State Duma approved legislation Friday authorizing the return of a valuable trove of rare books that victorious Soviet troops carried out of Hungary during World War II. (AP)

Police detained three suspected militants -- two Chechens and a native of Georgia -- linked to Chechen rebel warlord Shamil Basayev in Ingushetia, the regional Interior Ministry said Friday. (AP)

Two soldiers were killed by a rebel-planted land mine that exploded while they were trying to defuse it in Chechnya, officials said Saturday. (AP)

A train slammed into a car at a railroad crossing south of the city of Vyborg, near the Finnish border, on Friday, apparently killing all five people in the vehicle, an emergency official said. (AP)

The leader of Moldova's pro-Russian Transdnestr region said Friday that the region would boycott settlement talks with the government because of a customs dispute. (AP)

President Viktor Yushchenko called on Russia to hand over disputed lighthouses on the Black Sea coast, insisting that they were Ukrainian property, a senior official said Friday. (AP)

Human Rights Watch on Friday accused Uzbekistan of concealing information about the fate of Saidjahon Zainabitdinov, a rights activist arrested after commenting on a harsh military crackdown on protesters last year. (AP)

Belarus, accused by the West of undermining human rights, has invited the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to observe March's presidential election. The OSCE welcomed Thursday's invitation and said it expected authorities to conduct a fair vote. (Reuters)