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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Brothers Get Jail Time

A Nizhny Novgorod court sentenced a former local legislator and his brother, a former police chief, to lengthy prison terms for attempted murder, reported Friday.

Mikhail Dikin, the former deputy speaker of the Nizhny Novgorod regional legislature, received a 16-year sentence, while his brother Alexander Dikin, former chief of staff for the regional police, got 15 years.

A jury earlier found them guilty of organizing a murder attempt on businessman Oleg Sorokin, which prosecutors linked to a dispute over money. Sorokin suffered chest wounds when his car was raked with gunfire in December 2003.

Prosecutor Yevgeniya Lyulina accused the head of the regional branch of United Russia of helping Dikin to avoid arrest, reported. (AP)

Dagestanis Stabbed on Train

A group of young men with shaven heads stabbed two Dagestanis on a commuter train in the Moscow region late Saturday, Interfax reported.

The two men were hospitalized, and police are looking for the attackers, who were wearing camouflage. Police have not ruled out the possibility that the attack might have been racially motivated, Interfax said.

The attack occurred at about 8:30 p.m. on a train traveling from Orekhovo-Zuyevo to Moscow. (MT)

Church: Avoid Madonna

The Russian Orthodox Church said Friday that U.S. pop star Madonna needed spiritual help and advised believers to stay away from her first-ever concert in Moscow next month.

"This is not the first year that this lady has been mixing songs about human passion with Christian symbols -- crosses, statues of the virgin, beads, and now it's self-crucifixion. This means the singer needs spiritual assistance," said a church spokesman, Father Vsevolod Chaplin, Interfax reported.

The outdoor concert, part of Madonna's "Confessions" tour, is scheduled to be held Sept. 11 near Vorobyovy Gory in southwest Moscow. A large cross is part of the act.

Tickets are to go on sale Monday. (MT)

Putin Calls for Cease-Fire

President Vladimir Putin on Sunday called for an immediate end to hostilities in Lebanon in a telephone conversation with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Kremlin said.

Putin's call echoed a conversation he had with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan the day before.

On Friday, Lebanon's parliamentary majority leader, Saad Hariri, appealed to Russia during a visit to Moscow to push Israel for an immediate cease-fire in its military offensive against Hezbollah. (AP)

Diorama Auction Called Off

The auction for a Soviet-era, room-sized diorama of the Moscow city center was put off Friday after two of three potential buyers pulled out for unexplained reasons, Ekonomist, the company that owns the diorama, said.

The 20-by-10-meter "Moscow Panorama" will now be dismantled and most likely sold in private, said Olga Matveyeva, a spokeswoman for Ekonomist.

Ekonomist still expected to sell the diorama for the $380,000 asking price, but probably not at an auction. (AP)

Jail for 4 Belarus Monitors

MINSK -- Four members of a Belarussian election monitoring group who were detained in the run-up to the March presidential election were sentenced Friday to prison terms ranging from six months to two years.

The four had been charged with taking part in an unregistered organization that infringed on citizens' rights.

The Minsk Central Court sentenced Nikolai Astreiko, the head of the Partnership monitoring organization, to two years in prison. Activist Timofei Dranchuk was sentenced to one year, while Enira Bronitskaya and Alexander Shalaiko each received six-month sentences following the closed-door trial.

The U.S. State Department condemned the convictions and demanded the members' release.

The Partnership received funding from the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute. (AP)

European Satellite Launched

A Proton-M booster rocket successfully launched a European telecommunications satellite early Saturday, amending the Russian space credentials after a failed launch 10 days ago.

The Proton-M rocket carrying the Hot Bird 8 satellite was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, said Federal Space Agency spokesman Igor Panarin.

"We are happy with the successful launch that once again has proven the Proton rocket's reliability," Panarin said.

A commercial satellite launch on July 26 failed when a Dnepr rocket with 18 satellites crashed shortly after blastoff. (AP)

4 Injured in Chechnya

ROSTOV-ON-DON -- An explosive device planted by the rebels has wounded four federal servicemen in Chechnya, officials said Sunday.

The four members of the Interior Troops were wounded Saturday near the village of Dargo in Chechnya's southern mountains when the radio-controlled explosive device planted on a telegraph pole exploded next to them, the regional branch of the Interior Ministry said.

On Sunday, militants also blew up two cell phone antennas in Grozny, it said. (AP)

One Dead in Suicide Blast

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan -- A suspected Islamic radical set off a hand grenade, killing himself and a police officer and wounding another policeman during an arrest attempt in northern Tajikistan, an official said Saturday.

The man, a suspected member of the militant Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, blew himself up with a hand grenade that he was hiding under his clothes when police attempted to arrest him Thursday in the town of Isfara, Interior Ministry spokesman Khudonazar Asoyev said. (AP)

No Ambassador for Armenia

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee is putting off until September consideration of career diplomat Richard Hoagland as ambassador to Armenia.

The delay stems from objections by some senators to U.S. President George W. Bush's administration's refusal to classify the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 as "genocide." (AP)

Cars-for-Cotton Offer

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan -- Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov on Saturday promised each of his ministers a gift of a Mercedes car to celebrate the 15th anniversary of his country's independence in October.

Governors only qualify for a jeep, but they will be upgraded to a Mercedes if they bring in their cotton harvest early, Niyazov said on national television. (Reuters)