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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Group Criticizes Kremlin

WASHINGTON -- Russia encourages autocrats in nearby countries by systematically weakening or marginalizing independent media and regime critics, a report released Wednesday by a pro-democracy group said.

The report by New York-based Freedom House accused the Kremlin of going out of its way "to support the region's autocrats and to oppose efforts by the United Nations and other bodies to condemn or impose sanctions" on abusive dictatorships. (AP)

Russia's Stance on N. Korea

Russia on Wednesday urged the United States to scrap financial sanctions against North Korea, Russia's new chief negotiator at six-party talks said.

"The United States should make some steps toward the Koreans by lifting financial sanctions," Alexander Losyukov said, RIA-Novosti reported.

Losyukov was this month appointed deputy foreign minister, replacing Alexander Alexeyev, who until recently headed Russia's delegation in talks on the Korean nuclear problem. (Reuters)

Uzbeks Arrest Agitator

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan -- An Uzbek doctor and rights advocate who claimed to have seen hundreds of bodies during the bloody crackdown of the 2005 Andijan uprising has been arrested on suspicion of possessing banned literature, relatives said Wednesday.

Gulbakhor Turayeva and her young son were being held in Andijan after being detained Sunday at a border checkpoint as they returned from Kyrgyzstan, her husband, Farid, said. (AP)

Senator to Visit Belarus

STRASBOURG, France -- A senior member of the Council of Europe plans to travel to Belarus on Thursday, a rare visit by a Western diplomat, as loyalists of President Alexander Lukashenko appeared to have swept local elections condemned by the EU and the United States as undemocratic.

Dutch senator Rene van der Linden, who chairs the council's Parliamentary Assembly, planned to meet Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov, the speakers of the two houses of parliament and dissidents and NGOs during his three-day trip that took a year to organize. (AP)

Ivanov Defends Army

A total of 554 soldiers died on duty last year, 48 percent less than in 2005, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said. He said 485 soldiers died while not on duty.

Ivanov also said Tuesday that a conscript who was seriously ill had not been bullied and he defended the annual call up of hundreds of thousands of young men. Ivanov said discipline had improved in the army and that he had known since last year about Roman Rudakov, 20, a conscript hospitalized in St. Petersburg. (Reuters)

For the Record

A gas canister exploded in an apartment in Makhachkala on Wednesday, injuring one person, Dagestani police said. (AP)

Yuri Stern, a lawmaker who emigrated from Russia to Israel in 1981, died Tuesday of cancer, the government announced. He was 58. (AP)

Latvia's government voted Tuesday to withdraw a controversial declaration from a border agreement with Russia, paving the way for a deal to be signed later this year. (AP)

Lithuania has handed over to Poland a Belarussian, Sergei Monich, who was arrested last year on suspicions of espionage, prosecutors said Tuesday. (AP)