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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

2 Die in Gas Explosion

Two explosions caused by natural gas ripped through buildings in Siberia on Tuesday, killing two people and injuring several others, officials said.

In Novosibirsk, a gas canister used for welding exploded in an apartment building that was under construction, Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman Viktor Beltsov said. Two people were killed and three injured.

Separately, gas that apparently collected in an apartment during work to bring a gas line into a building in the Sverdlovsk region exploded, bringing down a section of a three-story building and injuring six people, officials said.

A man and woman escaped from the rubble on their own and four other people were rescued, said Sergei Kucherov, head of the regional branch of the Emergency Situations Ministry. (AP)

Court Upholds Closure

The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the decision to close down the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, which had been fiercely critical of the government's handling of the government's actions in Chechnya.

Rights advocates have denounced the closure on extremism charges.

The court upheld the October decision of the highest court in the Nizhny Novgorod region, where the group is based, to order its closure, Supreme Court spokesman Pavel Odintsov said. (AP)

Rights Group Evicted

MINSK -- Authorities have expelled the Belarussian Helsinki Committee, a leading human rights organization, from its offices, the group said late Monday.

"The government wants to take revenge for our human rights activities and is trying to destroy us," said Tatyana Protko, head of the organization.

She said a presidential property management body had ordered the rights organization to vacate premises in a building that it had rented from the state since 1998. Protko said the Helsinki Committee would appeal the decision, adding that the move to deprive it of a legal address came as it had stepped up contacts with Western Europe. (AP)

Missile Defense Criticized

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak on Tuesday added to Russian criticism of U.S. plans to establish missile-defense sites in central Europe, saying it would not enhance international security, Interfax reported.

"The plans of the United States on deploying a global anti-missile defense do not meet with understanding in Russia because they do not follow from global security interests," Kislyak said.

U.S. authorities said Monday that they had told Polish leaders that the United States wants to open formal negotiations on the possibility of locating ground-based interceptor missiles in their country. (AP)

2 Die in Chechen Gunfight

Gunmen clashed with Chechen police officers east of the capital, Grozny, leaving one officer and one gunman dead, Chechnya's Interior Ministry said Tuesday.

Four other gunmen were wounded in the Monday evening clash, which erupted as police were searching a farm in the Kurchaloi district, 30 kilometers east of Grozny, the ministry said. One gunman escaped. (AP)

Transition Damaged Health

Russia's turbulent transition to a capitalist society caused a sharp deterioration in the country's mental health, Zurab Kekelidze, director of the Serbsky Institute, said Monday.

But psychological disorders have started to level off in the past few years -- a period that coincided with greater political and economic stability under President Vladimir Putin. (Reuters)

Traffic Jams Hit Home

A new web site launched last week offers to mitigate Moscow's suffocating traffic by helping Muscovites find jobs closer to home.

The site,, provides a forum for employers and job seekers intended to help eliminate long commutes. More than 3 million cars are registered in Moscow, and officials say that number is growing by 100,000 per year. (MT)

Vatican Hopes For a Visit

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican is hoping for a visit to Moscow by Pope Benedict XVI, but there are no concrete plans for such a pilgrimage at this time, a prominent Vatican cardinal said Tuesday.

"Relations with the Russian Orthodox Church have improved, and we're committed to improving them more," Cardinal Walter Kasper, the pope's top official on efforts to promote the growth of Christian unity, told a news conference. (AP)