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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Apartment Blast in Samara

An explosion blamed on a natural gas leak ripped through a section of an apartment building in Samara on Wednesday, injuring at least two residents, officials said.

The explosion occurred late Wednesday in a four-story apartment building, reducing a section of it to rubble, said Viktor Beltsov, a spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry. (AP)

Prague Criticizes U.S. Offer

PRAGUE -- Senior Czech politicians are angry over Washington's suggestion that Russians be allowed to staff a radar station in their country.

"Perhaps a Russian expert may be there, but in no case a Russian soldier. I simply do not want any Russian soldiers on Czech territory," said Jan Vidim, head of the defense committee in the parliament's lower house. (Reuters)

Catholic Call for Unity

The outgoing leader of Russia's Catholics said Wednesday that the "wall of problems" souring Vatican relations with the Russian Orthodox Church should be overcome so the two faiths could work together to advance the word of Christ.

Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz said the Orthodox "could have been better to us," referring to the country's Catholic community of about 600,000.

"During my 16-year service here, I never aimed at luring people from other religions to Catholicism," said Kondrusiewicz, 61, who was leaving his post in Moscow to head a 1.5 million-member Catholic community in Belarus. (AP)

Journalist Killed in Osh

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- An independent Uzbek journalist was shot dead in Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday, police said.

The reporter, identified as Alisher Saipov, 26, was shot twice in the chest and once in the head in the center of the southern city of Osh, where he was based, local police said by telephone.

Saipov, an ethnic Uzbek with Kyrgyz citizenship, reported on a range of sensitive political issues, including the activities of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a banned Islamist group. The independent Ferghana news agency said Saipov worked for the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty before he leading an Uzbek-language newspaper in Osh. (Reuters)

Kyrgyz Cabinet Resigns

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced Wednesday that the government had tendered its resignation but would stay on for two months until a new Cabinet could be formed.

He said the resignation was not connected with the government's performance but with coming changes after about 74 percent of voters approved sweeping alterations to the constitution in a referendum held Sunday.

"By the end of the year, a new government and parliament will be formed," Bakiyev told journalists. (AP)

Letters to Election Observers

The Central Elections Commission next week will begin sending out invitations to international election observers for the Dec. 2 State Duma elections, a commission spokesman said.

Invitations will go out to representatives of foreign governments and international organizations, including to monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, spokesman Andrei Davydov told Interfax on Tuesday. OSCE representatives have expressed concern over delays in the invitations, which they say threaten their ability to set up a mission in time for the election. (MT)

Britain to Seek Fingerprints

Beginning Nov. 8, all applicants for British visas, regardless of nationality, will have to be fingerprinted and digitally photographed at application centers, the British Embassy said.

Fingerprints will be collected from each applicant using an electronic scanner, and no ink, liquid or chemical will be used, the embassy said. A digital photograph will be taken at the same time, and the entire procedure should take no more than five minutes, it said.

British visa application centers will be closed the following days for installation and testing equipment: Nov. 1 and 2; Nov. 6 and 7. They will reopen on Nov. 8 for individual applications only and on Nov. 12 for all applications, the embassy said. (MT)

Estonia Refuses 2 Visas

The Estonian Embassy has refused visas to a director and reporter with the state-run, English-language television channel Russia Today.

An embassy spokeswoman refused to explain the decision but said the fact that their applications had been accepted was evidence that the journalists were not denied the visas on a technicality. "Not all the group were denied visas," the spokeswoman said, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.

The journalists were preparing a documentary on events surrounding the relocation of a Soviet war memorial from central Tallinn, said Julia Ermolina, a spokeswoman for the channel. The channel will still produce the film, even if it has to send British journalists rather than Russian ones, Ermolina said. (MT)

For the Record

Tajikistan this week outlawed Jehovah's Witnesses, saying its "door-to-door missionary activities and calls to refuse to serve in the armed forces" violated Tajik law. (Reuters)

A taxi driver and passenger were injured late Tuesday in a roadside bomb blast in Makhachkala. (Reuters)

Kazakh authorities late Tuesday blocked access to the main opposition web sites in a move critics condemned as a crackdown on free speech. (Reuters)