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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

U.S. Pays Less for Air Base

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- Kyrgyz lawmaker Bolot Maripov said Thursday that the United States was paying $65 million for the lease of an air base near Bishkek, instead of the $150 million announced by U.S. and Kyrgyz officials in July.

"I doubt that the government protects our national interests and provides true information to its people," Maripov told reporters. He said the figures came from the country's Security Council.

The deal, which the United States called "total assistance and compensation," came after the Kyrgyz government threatened to evict the air base, which supports operations in Afghanistan. (AP)

Armenian Soldier Killed

YEREVAN, Armenia -- An Armenian soldier has died after being wounded by Azeri fire near the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, officials said Wednesday.

The Armenian Defense Ministry said the soldier died in a hospital after he had been wounded in his chest by an Azeri sniper near the so-called line of control separating Azeri and Armenian forces. It did not say when the incident occurred. (AP)

Cherkizovsky Market Shut

Cherkizovsky market, the site of a bomb blast that killed 11 and injured 45 in mid-August, will be closed until the end of next year for renovations, Vladimir Malyshkov, head of the city's Consumer Market Department, told Interfax on Thursday.

A part of the market that belongs to a physical education institute will be developed as housing and sports facilities. The rest of the market will be filled with "modern retail outlets," Malyshkov said.

Malyshkov said 125 of the city's 240 markets had been closed in recent years, and that the closures would continue. Markets selling food and specialized goods such as cars, garden supplies and building materials will remain, he said. (MT)

Church Clarifies Gay Stance

The Russian Orthodox Church's opposition to same-sex marriages and gay pride parades is not directed against individual homosexuals, but their attempt to make sin a social norm, a senior church official told students at Moscow State University on Wednesday evening, Interfax reported.

"We do not condemn people for their deviations, but we do not want these deviations from the norm to become a permissible lifestyle for society," said Metropolitan Kirill, head of the Moscow Patriarchate's external relations department.

Society "cannot proclaim sin as some sort of norm," Metropolitan Kirill said. "If we proclaim the possibility of an alternative in this area, then let's be consistent and declare one in relation to murder." (MT)

Pension Fund Chief Arrested

TBILISI, Georgia -- Georgian police arrested the head of the national pension fund, accusing him of accepting bribes and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial damages, the deputy prosecutor general said Thursday.

Seven other employees of the Unified Pension Fund were also arrested Wednesday, Deputy Prosecutor General Kakha Koberidze told reporters.

He said Zaza Sopromadze had allegedly abused his authority as head of the Georgian social security system and caused more than 570,000 lari ($300,000) in damage to the system. (AP)

Queen Pays a Visit to Tallinn

TALLINN, Estonia -- Britain's Queen Elizabeth II was greeted by Estonia's political establishment and hundreds of citizens on Thursday as she arrived in the capital, Tallinn, on the final leg of her tour of the three Baltic countries.

Hosted by Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Estonia's newly inaugurated president, a welcome ceremony for the queen and her husband, Prince Philip, was held in front of the Presidential Palace.

The British monarch was welcomed by Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and his Cabinet ministers.

After a military band played the Estonian and British national anthems, the queen, wearing a turquoise dress and hat, inspected the Estonian honor guard. (AP)