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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Fine for Troop Labor

A military court has convicted a senior officer in the elite rocket forces of hiring out troops under his command as labor for local businesses, Interfax reported Thursday.

Vladimir Kontonistov, deputy commander of a division of the Strategic Rocket Forces in the Novosibirsk region, was fined 60,000 rubles ($2,135) and banned from holding a command for three years.

The rocket forces are responsible for guarding and operating nuclear weapons. The force had a reputation as being less prone to corruption and brutality than the rest of the armed forces. (Reuters)

Bill to Move Court

The State Duma will pass a bill during its spring session to move the Constitutional Court from Moscow to St. Petersburg, RIA-Novosti reported Thursday.

The St. Petersburg legislature submitted the bill to the Duma on Wednesday, Vladimir Pligin, the chairman of the Duma's Committee for Constitution and State Affairs, told RIA-Novosti.

President Vladimir Putin said during his near-annual news conference in the Kremlin on Tuesday that he backed the idea of moving the court to his hometown. (MT)

17 Subs To Be Scrapped

A top atomic official said Thursday that Russia would scrap 17 nuclear submarines this year, Russian news agencies reported.

Sergei Antipov, deputy head of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency, was quoted by Interfax and Itar-Tass as saying that 17 submarines would be decommissioned this year, while 19 were scrapped last year. Antipov also criticized foreign donors for failing to provide promised financing to decommission nuclear vessels. (AP)

Spying Arrest Upheld

The Moscow City Court has upheld the arrest of the director of a Russian rocket and space technology company on espionage charges, Interfax reported Thursday.

Judges upheld a lower court ruling sanctioning the arrest of Tsniimash-Export director Igor Reshetin, who is accused of delivering sensitive technology to China in violation of state export controls.

The Federal Security Service also said in November that Reshetin and two deputies had been charged with stealing 30 million rubles ($1 million) through a scheme involving fake companies and falsified documents. (AP)

Merkel Calls Ties Vital

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that Germany's strategic partnership with Russia was a plank in its foreign policy and should be expanded, RIA-Novosti reported.

"A strong Europe and a close trans-Atlantic relationship built on trust are the pillars of German foreign policy. Along with this, our strategic partnership with Russia should be expanded," Merkel said at a diplomatic reception in Berlin. (MT)

Saakashvili on NATO

BERLIN -- Joining NATO is key to solving Georgia's territorial disputes with Russia and the alliance must not be "scared away" from offering membership to the country, President Mikhail Saakashvili said Thursday.

He said long-running conflicts over the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia would "never be solved" if NATO refused to accept Georgia until they were settled.

"That's exactly the wrong signal. Being scared away by these problems will make these problems even more aggravated," Saakashvili told a news conference in Berlin.

"Existing conflicts cannot stop countries like Georgia from membership in NATO. It should be made very clear, because that's something that is not clear yet to some policymakers in Moscow." (Reuters)

Czechs Extradite Russian

PRAGUE -- A Russian national arrested in the Czech Republic will be extradited to Ukraine to face charges of illegal weapons trading, an official said Thursday.

Justice Minister Pavel Nemec ordered the extradition of Oleg Orlov this week, his spokesman Petr Dimun said.

An arrest warrant for Orlov was issued in Ukraine in June 2004 and he was arrested in the Czech Republic the following month. In June last year, a Czech court ruled that Orlov can be extradited.

According to earlier reports, Ukraine was seeking the extradition because Orlov allegedly smuggled an unspecified number of missiles to China in May 2000 using fake documentation. (AP)

Abkhazia 'Genocide' Claim

UNITED NATIONS -- Georgia's UN ambassador accused Russia of taking part in genocide and ethnic cleansing in the breakaway Abkhazia region, the latest in an escalating war of words between the two nations.

Ambassador Revaz Adamia on Wednesday repeated past claims that Russian peacekeepers have sided with separatists in Abkhazia, and accused Moscow of seeking independence for the tiny province, which has run its own affairs since 1993.

He pushed the rhetoric up a notch, however, saying that Russian troops participated in ethnic cleansing and genocide because more than 300,000 ethnic Georgians have been expelled from Abkhazia and some 10,000 were killed during fighting there. (AP)

Support for Kyrgyz Base

KANT AIR BASE, Kyrgyzstan -- Prime Minister Felix Kulov on Thursday pledged continued support for Russia's use of a military base near Bishkek.

During a visit to the Kant Air Base, Kulov said, "We will support the base presence in the country and will create all necessary conditions for the troops and commanders." (AP)