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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Tatars Demand Land

KIEV -- About a thousand Crimean Tatars rallied Monday on Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula to demand the return of land seized after Soviet leader Josef Stalin forced the deportation of their ethnic group, police officials said.

The demonstrators briefly blocked some main streets and highways in and around the Crimean capital Simferopol, said Olexandr Dombrovsky, spokesman for the regional police. No violence was reported, he said.

Lilya Muslimova, spokeswoman for the Tatar Assembly, said the rally was organized on the activists' own initiative and that the Assembly had tried to discourage them from protesting because it could upset talks under way between Tatar leaders and the government about the return of land. (AP)

Latvian Border to Be Settled

RIGA, Latvia -- Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga on Monday expressed her support of a bill authorizing the government to sign a border treaty with Russia.

Latvia's parliament passed the law earlier this month after an acrimonious debate surrounding a small swathe of land that was seized by the Soviet Union after World War II. In accordance with the treaty, Latvia gives up all territorial claims toward Russia.

The law was published in the Monday edition of Latvias Vestnesis, a state-owned newspaper, which according to the constitution puts it into effect.

The president's decision was the last formality before the Baltic state can sign a border agreement with Russia. (AP)

Litvinenko Meeting Planned

LONDON -- Russian investigators looking into the fatal poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko will meet with their British counterparts in London this week, the Metropolitan Police said Monday.

Litvinenko, a fierce Kremlin critic, was poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 in London last November.

Russian officials have complained that it took Britain more than a month to approve their request to visit several sites and question some 100 people, including exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky.

No date has yet been set for the meeting between Metropolitan Police detectives and the Russians, police said. (AP)

Ukrainian Trafficking

KIEV -- More Ukrainian men, women and children have been trafficked abroad and forced into indentured labor or prostitution than in any other East European country since the Soviet collapse, an international migration group said in a report Monday.

Roughly 117,000 Ukrainians have been forced into exploitative situations in Europe, the Middle East and Russia since 1991, the International Organization for Migration said. (AP)

Armenian-Turkish Relations

PARIS -- Armenia is ready to establish diplomatic ties with Turkey without preconditions and create a joint government commission to discuss Armenian deaths at the hands of Ottoman Turks in 1915, which Yerevan says was genocide.

Armenian President Robert Kocharyan rejected Turkey's offer to set up a joint panel of historians to debate the issue, using an interview in the daily Le Figaro on Monday to call on Ankara to accept his suggestion of an intergovernmental commission.

Turkey denies accusations that some 1.5 million Armenians were massacred during the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, arguing that Armenian deaths were part of general partisan fighting in which both sides suffered. (Reuters)

Moose Lips and Bear Paws

Customs officers in the Amur region seized hundreds of kilograms of moose lips and severed bear paws from smugglers attempting to take the cargo into China, reported Monday.

The customs officers discovered 200 kilograms of moose lips and 110 kilograms of bear paws in a truck trying to cross into China from Blagoveshchensk in the Far East, said.

Both bear paws and moose lips are prized as culinary delicacies in the Far East.

During a visit to President Boris Yeltsin's dacha in 1994, U.S. President Bill Clinton dined on moose lips. (MT)

Bakiyev Urged to Resign

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- Kyrgyz ex-Prime Minister Felix Kulov on Monday urged President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to resign before his current term ends in 2010, accusing his former ally of usurping power in the unstable country.

Kulov, who was sprung from jail and formed a partnership with Bakiyev after a 2005 coup which unseated former President Askar Akayev, joined the opposition last week, sparking new tension in the country, home to both a U.S. and a Russian air base.

Bakiyev, a southerner, and Kulov, a northerner, had signed a declaration on their political partnership in a symbol of unity in the nation of 5 million, to become president and prime minister -- though Kulov has since quit as Prime Minister. (Reuters)

Park for Niyazov

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan -- Turkmenistan's new president was due to open a park in the home village of his predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov, on Monday, part of lavish celebrations marking the birthday of the autocrat who ruled for two decades.

A series of grand openings and the release of a new book about Niyazov, who died in December, appeared aimed at creating a sense of stability and continuity for Turkmen citizens by prolonging the personality cult he created around himself.

His successor, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, was inaugurated last week and has signaled limited changes in the tightly controlled country; his first public initiative was to open Internet cafes. (AP)

Azeris Weigh in on Iran

BAKU, Azerbaijan -- Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov on Monday called for a diplomatic solution to the standoff over Iran's nuclear program, emphasizing the central role of the United Nation's atomic regulator.

Mammadyarov was speaking after meeting his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whose country is one of six nations pushing Iran to stop uranium enrichment.

"Azerbaijan's position is that all questions raised in connection with Iran's nuclear program must be solved only by diplomatic means," Mammadyarov told reporters, adding that it should be done through the International Atomic Energy Agency. (AP)

Activists Rally in Baku

BAKU, Azerbaijan -- Hundreds of opposition activists rallied in the Azeri capital Sunday in the latest of a series of authorized protests against steep rises in municipal gas, electricity and water rates.

Around 500 protesters from the Musavat opposition party waved flags and carried placards reading "No To Poverty!" and "No To Increases" as they marched in one district of Baku.

In a reference to the recently opened Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline that pumps Azerbaijani oil to Turkey's Mediterranean coast, many chanted, "Lights cost money, gas costs money -- where's the money from Ceyhan?" (AP)

Kazakh Plane in Near Crash

GENEVA -- An Algerian military plane and a Kazakh passenger plane came so close to each other last week that warning systems sounded an alert, but there was no collision, the Swiss air traffic control company Skyguide said Monday.

The two planes came to within 740 meters of each other on Feb. 8 while flying over Lake Annecy, south of Geneva, according to a statement from the Swiss Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau. (AP)