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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

A Murder and a Cell Phone

North Ossetia's top sports official, Rustem Keleskhayev, has promised not to leave Vladikavkaz pending an investigation into how his cell phone was used for a ransom demand.

A distant relative of Keleskhayev and an accomplice are suspected of kidnapping and killing Marat Dzhebilov on March 13, Kommersant reported Wednesday. After the kidnapping, a call demanding a $1 million ransom was made to Dzhebilov's father from a cell phone belonging to Keleskhayev.

Keleskhayev, who has not been charged with wrongdoing, has told investigators that he gave the phone to the relative some time ago, Kommersant said. (MT)

Shoigu Frets Over Fires

Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday that there was an urgent need to introduce tighter fire safety rules after two fires in the last few days killed at least 74 people.

"We need to quickly adopt new technical rules on fire safety," Shoigu said.

Last week, 63 people died after a fire at a retirement home in the Krasnodar region. On Sunday, a fire show at a Moscow strip club went wrong.


Progress Falls Into Pacific

The remains of a Progress supply vehicle fell to Earth as planned early Wednesday after it undocked from the orbiting international space station, Mission Control said.

Most of the Progress M-58 ferry, which undocked from the station late Tuesday after five months in orbit, burned up as it re-entered the atmosphere. The rest of it sank in the Pacific Ocean. (Reuters)

Tajik Teen Jailed

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan -- A Tajik court sentenced a teenager to eight years in jail Wednesday for being a member of a banned Islamist group, the court's judge said.

Muminbek Mamedov, 17, was charged with being a member of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, Judge Ismon Giyoyev said by telephone from the city of Khujand, where the trial took place. (Reuters)

New Estonian Coalition

TALLINN, Estonia -- Estonia's ruling Reform Party agreed with a nationalist group and the Social Democrats on Wednesday to form a government aimed at cutting taxes and doubling pensions, a senior party official said.

Prime Minister Andrus Ansip preliminary agreed to join the nationalist Pro Patria-Res Publica and the leftists after his center-right party's victory in March 4 elections.

The agreement pledges to cut taxes and double pensions over the Cabinet's four-year term. (Reuters)

Strip Club Toll Hits 11

A 32-year-old man has died of injuries sustained in Sunday's fire at a Moscow striptease club, bringing the death toll to 11, Interfax reported Wednesday.

Six people remain hospitalized after the early morning fire at the 911 VIP club, and one of them is in critical condition, the report said.

The blaze was sparked at the club near Pushkin Square when a barman poured too much alcohol on himself during a fire show. (MT)

Father Held in Killing

A father is being held on suspicion of having an acquaintance kill his 19-year-old daughter over an apartment, RIA-Novosti reported Wednesday.

The unidentified man persuaded his daughter to sell an apartment she had recently inherited and then paid an acquaintance about $4,000 to kill her so he could keep the cash from the sale, prosecutors said.

The father, who had never lived with his daughter, was released from prison last year after serving time for fraud.

The woman's grandmother reported her missing Feb. 21. The suspected killer also has been detained. (MT)

'Respect Russian Language'

ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has criticized his country for growing disrespect for the Russian language.

"I think it's a great blessing that Kazakhs speak Russian so well -- better than some Russians," Nazarbayev said at a meeting with young scientists late Tuesday.

"Some of our people, intelligentsia, criticize that we use Russian so much. ... The more languages you know the more cultured you become," he said.

Turkic-speaking Kazakhs were forced to learn Russian during Russian imperial rule and later under the Soviet Union. (Reuters)

Churkin's Call on Kosovo

UNITED NATIONS -- Calling the Security Council's decision on Kosovo's future possibly its most important this decade, Russia's UN ambassador has urged members to make a firsthand visit and review progress since the United Nations took charge of running the Serb province in 1999.

Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that during a closed-door council discussion he "deliberately" did not discuss Russia's concerns about a plan drafted by UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari that would grant Kosovo eventual independence. But he reiterated Moscow's demand for a negotiated solution acceptable to the province's majority Albanians and minority Serbs. (AP)

For the Record

The Foreign Ministry late Tuesday rejected as "insinuations" Tbilisi's claim to the European Court of Human Rights that Russia's deportation of thousands of Georgian citizens represented a grave violation of their rights. (Bloomberg)

Germany's foreign minister urged Uzbekistan on Tuesday to improve its human rights record if it wanted the EU to lift sanctions. Uzbekistan replied Wednesday that it was ready for more dialogue, not lectures. (Reuters)

The U.S. Congress has sent legislation to President George W. Bush that endorses expansion of NATO to include Ukraine, Georgia, Albania, Croatia and Macedonia. The bill becomes law once Bush has signed it. (AP)