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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Empress' Remains Arrive

ST. PETERSBURG -- The remains of Empress Maria Fyodorovna, one of Russia's most popular royals, were returned Tuesday to her adopted homeland from Denmark, the country where she was born and where she died in 1928.

Born the Danish Princess Dagmar, Maria Fyodorovna was the mother of the last tsar, Nicholas II, who was executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918. She had fled to Crimea, where she was evacuated on a British warship sent by her nephew, Britain's King George V.

The coffin arrived Tuesday at Peterhof, the tsarist palace complex on the shore of the Gulf of Finland outside St. Petersburg. It is to be interred Thursday in the cathedral in the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, where other members of the Romanov dynasty, including her son Nicholas II, are buried. (AP)

Outrage Over Putin's Award

PARIS -- Reporters Without Borders expressed outrage Monday that France had decorated President Vladimir Putin with one of the country's highest awards, the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor.

During Putin's visit to France last week, French President Jacques Chirac honored him with the medal as a sign of friendship between France and Russia.

"Elevating a press-freedom predator to the rank of Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor is an insult to all those in Russia who fight for press freedom, the freedom to be informed and the survival of effective democracy in their country," the Paris-based media advocacy group said. (AP)

Lavrov Flexes Muscles in LA

The United States should get used to the fact that Russia is restoring its independence in foreign policy, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday in a speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, Interfax reported.

"My opinion is that the rapid pace at which Russia has been rebuilding its independence in foreign policy is one of the factors that have put a strain on our relations, as too many people in the U.S. have yet to get accustomed to it," Lavrov said. (MT)

8 Charged in HIV Scandal

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Prosecutors in Kazakhstan have charged eight doctors and senior health officials with criminal negligence over the infection of at least 61 children with the HIV virus, Kazakh media reported Tuesday.

The country's health minister was fired last week over the case, which has led to the deaths of four babies thus far.

The children, aged between two months and 10 years old, were infected in recent months at a hospital in the south of the country, apparently after receiving transfusions of blood contaminated with the virus. (Reuters)

Suit Filed to Close Party

MINSK -- The Belarussian Justice Ministry said Tuesday that it had filed a suit with the country's Supreme Court to close the opposition Communist Party, accusing it of violating a law on political parties.

The party, led by Sergei Kalyakin, said the move amounted to revenge for its support for the main liberal rival to challenge Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko's bid for re-election in March. Kalyakin was campaign chief for Alexander Milinkevich, who finished a distant second to Lukashenko. Lukashenko's landslide victory was denounced in the West as flagrantly rigged. (Reuters)

Milinkevich Up for EU Prize

STRASBOURG, France -- A Belarussian opposition leader, a Lebanese journalist and a presidential candidate being held hostage in Colombia have been shortlisted for the European Union's human rights prize.

The Sakharov Prize is awarded annually to a person or group judged to have made a particular achievement in the field of human rights, protecting minorities, defense of international cooperation or promotion of democracy and the rule of law.

The candidates, shortlisted by the European Parliament late Monday, include Alexander Milinkevich, who ran unsuccessfully against Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko in elections in March. (AP)

Georgian Injured by Mine

TBILISI, Georgia -- A Georgian civilian was injured Monday when the vehicle he was driving hit a mine near the breakaway province of South Ossetia, officials said.

The explosion occurred while the man was driving near a military checkpoint in the area, said Paata Bedianashvili, the commander of Georgian military forces in the area. The man sustained light injuries, he said. (AP)

Minister's Plane Damaged

KIEV -- An aircraft carrying Ukrainian Defense Minister Anatoly Hrytsenko to Albania returned to Kiev and made an emergency landing Tuesday after the pilot noticed cracks in a cockpit window, a ministry spokesman said.

"There was serious damage in the outside pane of a double-paned cockpit window," Andriy Lysenko said by telephone.

Lysenko said no one was hurt in the incident aboard a government Tu-134, a Soviet-designed plane frequently used on medium-haul civil flights. (Reuters)

Kodori Trip Criticized

The Foreign Ministry on Tuesday criticized Georgia's plan to take foreign diplomats on a trip to a part of a separatist province controlled by Georgian forces, saying the visit would only add to tensions in a volatile region.

"It will only add to nervousness and further exacerbate Abkhaz-Georgian relations," the Russian Foreign Ministry said of the planned diplomats' trip to the Kodori Gorge, part of the separatist province of Abkhazia. (AP)

Man Falls to His Death

PROVO, Utah -- A Russian man fell 60 meters to his death while trying to prevent a 3-year-old girl from falling down a steep bank, media in Utah reported.

They were among eight family members and friends who had just toured Timpanogos Cave National Monument and were walking on a steep trail Sunday to the parking lot. The girl was looking inside a potato-chip bag and had veered off a trail, the Deseret Morning News reported.

"The latest is that he started sliding, couldn't stop and proceeded off another 200 feet [61 meters], past the 3-year-old victim," Lieutenant Darren Gilbert told the newspaper. The girl fell 22 meters but survived. (AP)