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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Khodorkovsky Asks to Move

Mikhail Khodorkovsky has appealed his incarceration in Krasnokamensk, his lawyers said Tuesday, arguing that the jailed oil tycoon should serve out his eight-year sentence on tax evasion and fraud charges closer to Moscow.

In the appeal, lawyer Yury Shmidt contended that the authorities had sent Khodorkovsky to the prison near the border with China as "revenge for undesirable ... political and social activities."

His location was hindering lawyers in their preparing an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, Shmidt said. Under Russian law, he argued, Khodorkovsky should be jailed as close as possible to Moscow, where he was sentenced, or the Moscow region, where he lived. (AP)

Putin Villa in Germany?

President Vladimir Putin is planning to buy a luxury villa on Germany's Baltic coast ahead of the Group of Eight industrialized nations summit there in May 2007, Bild newspaper reported last week.

Citing information from "diplomatic circles," the German daily reported Friday that the Kremlin was in negotiations with the investment group Die Fundus-Gruppe about buying the villa in Heiligendamm, a town on the Baltic coast.

Fundus-Gruppe spokesman Johannes Beermann told the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper that he could not comment on Putin's reported interest in the villa, known as the Haus Perle, which is said to have been a summer home for the Russian imperial family in the 19th century. (MT)

Putin in Astana

ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- President Vladimir Putin arrived in the Kazakh capital on Tuesday for the inauguration of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was re-elected last month.

After the ceremony in Astana on Wednesday, Putin is scheduled to meet Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko for their first face-to-face talks after last week's gas price dispute.

Other leaders expected to attend the inauguration are Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the leaders of Croatia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry said. (AP)

FSB Detains Shipbuilder

ST. PETERSBURG -- A worker at a St. Petersburg shipbuilding plant has been detained on suspicion of trying to pass secret naval documents to Estonia, the Federal Security Service, or FSB, said Tuesday.

The FSB's press service said the man, whose identity was not released, was detained in November.

News web site reported that the FSB began searching for the man after the driver of a bus going from St. Petersburg to Tallinn turned over a box containing at least 38 pages of secret naval shipbuilding plans to police on Sept. 29. The plans were hidden in a box for children's toys, the web site said, and the driver said he was instructed to turn the box over to a man in Tallinn. (AP)

300 Militants Killed in 2005

Nearly 300 militants were killed by federal forces in Chechnya last year, Russian news agencies quoted a top Interior Ministry official as saying Tuesday.

The agencies cited Colonel Vasily Panchenkov, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, as saying that 290 militants were killed in 2005 and large amounts of ammunition seized, including some 6,000 grenades and 5,000 artillery shells.

Also Tuesday, the Federal Security Service division in Dagestan reported that a Turkish citizen who was an active member of al-Qaida had been seized; officials gave his name as Soiteikin Ollu. (AP)

Putin Signs Parties Bill

President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday signed into law a bill to allow political parties that win elections to regional legislatures to nominate governors.

The legislation was approved by the State Duma and Federation Council last month. (MT)

Hope on N. Korea Talks

BEIJING -- North Korea's secretive leader, Kim Jong Il, traveled to China by train on Tuesday, a South Korean military intelligence official said, raising hopes of a resumption of talks on the country's nuclear weapons program.

Chinese President Hu Jintao visited North Korea in October in an apparent effort to push for progress in the six-nation talks, which also include the United States, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

China's Foreign Ministry said Kim planned to visit Beijing at some point, and that the nuclear issue would be a key topic for discussion, but did not give the exact timing.

In Moscow, officials at the Foreign Ministry and the Kremlin had no comment on whether Kim would travel on to Russia. (AP)

Ukraine Denies CIA Jails

KIEV -- Ukraine on Tuesday vehemently denied the existence of secret CIA-run prisons on Ukrainian soil.

"The very raising of that issue is absurd," Foreign Ministry spokesman Vasiliy Filipchuk told reporters.

His remarks followed a report by a Swiss paper about a purported Egyptian government message on the existence of secret CIA prisons in Ukraine, Romania, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Serbia's southern province of Kosovo. (AP)

Armenia-Azerbaijan Talks

YEREVAN, Armenia -- Top diplomats from Azerbaijan and Armenia plan to meet in London next week for talks on resolving the conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, Armenia's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

The Jan. 17-18 meeting between Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Osakyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Elmar Mamedyarov, comes amid growing hopes that this year could bring significant progress toward resolving the conflict that saw ethnic Armenian and Azerbaijani forces fight a six-year war in the early 1990s.

Officials at Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry could not be immediately reached for comment.

The foreign ministers last met in early December. (AP)

Uzbek Activist on Trial

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan -- An Uzbek rights activist has gone on trial for his comments on the bloody May massacre in the eastern city of Andijan, his family and activists said Tuesday.

Saidjahon Zainabitdinov provided reporters with crucial details about the May 13 incident, describing how government troops fired on thousands of people in Andijan, his son Ilkhom said. "My father is on trial because of the interviews he gave to the media," he said.

Zainabitdinov's trial began last Wednesday, rights activist Surat Ikramov said. He was arrested a week after the crackdown, Ikramov said. "The family were not informed and cannot access court hearings," Ikramov said.

Uzbek officials could not be reached for comment. (AP)