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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Editor Convicted of Libel

BAKU, Azerbaijan -- An Azeri court convicted the editor of two independent newspapers of libel on Friday and sentenced him to 2 1/2 years in prison, court officials said. Opposition leaders called the ruling part of a state campaign to silence critical media.

Eynulla Fatullayev, editor and founder of newspapers Real Azerbaijan and Everyday Azerbaijan, was found guilty of disseminating false information about a 1992 attack during the country's six-year war with Armenia.

The suit had been filed in a Baku district court by a member of a refugee group who claimed that Fatullayev had said on a web site that Azeris were also to blame for the assault. (AP)

Ex-Minister Gets 11 Years

BAKU, Azerbaijan -- An Azeri court on Friday sentenced a former health minister and 10 other officials to lengthy prison terms after convicting them of embezzling government funds, abuse of office and receiving bribes.

The country's serious crimes court sentenced Ali Insanov to 11 years in prison and ordered the confiscation of his real estate assets, gold and jewelry, worth $4.8 million. Ten other former senior health officials received prison terms ranging from three to nine years.

Insanov denied the charges and said the ruling was politely motivated. "It is a temporary victory of the rotten political [system]," he said after the verdict was announced. "The criminal case against me is trumped-up and demonstrates the authorities' weakness." (AP)

Heart Operation a Success

TBILISI, Georgia -- Georgia's prime minister, Zurab Nogaideli, has undergone a successful heart operation in a clinic in Houston, Texas, Georgian television reported Friday.

"One of his heart mitral valves was substituted during the operation. The operation lasted about eight hours. The patient feels fine and the doctors are satisfied," Georgy Zurabashvili, a member of Nogaideli's delegation, told Georgian television. (Reuters)

Litvinenko Arrests

LONDON -- The Mail on Sunday newspaper reported that police were to issue arrest warrants against three Russian suspects in the poisoning death of Alexander Litvinenko.

British police have enough evidence to bring charges "within three weeks," the newspaper reported, citing unidentified sources close to Litvinenko's widow, Marina.

Self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky said Marina Litvinenko had not mentioned any arrests to him.

Scotland Yard would not comment on the report. (AP)

Captain Gets 2 Years in Jail

A Dagestani military court on Friday sentenced an army company captain to two years in prison for beating conscripts, court officials said.

The court found Captain Mikhail Volkov guilty of assaulting younger soldiers, court spokesman Khasbulat Rustamov said. The official said Volkov admitted his guilt.

The under-funded and demoralized Army suffers from widespread bullying, which has led to numerous deaths and injuries to young conscripts. The abuse has also been blamed for suicides. (AP)

Arrest in Student's Death

MADRID -- Spanish police have arrested a suspect in the kidnapping of a Russian student in Berlin last August, officials said Friday.

The 38-year-old native of Kazakhstan was picked up in the town of La Escala in the northeast Catalonia region, police said. They did not give his full name, identifying him only as Oleg S.

The suspect was wanted in the kidnapping of Vadim Freinkman, 20, who has long lived in Germany and is the son of a Russian scientist. (AP)

Vandalism Suspects Held

St. Petersburg police have detained several suspected members of an ultranationalist youth who are suspected of planning to desecrate graves at the city's Smolenskoye Cemetery by painting swastikas on gravestones, officials said Friday.

As many as 15 people have been detained, Itar-Tass reported Friday, citing an Interior Ministry source. Four were detained before Easter, six after the holiday and five more who attempted to attack an ethnic Uzbek outside the cemetery were detained.

The source said cans of spray paint, metal rods and ultranationalist leaflets had been found among the suspects' belongings. (MT)

Putin Nominates Tkachyov

President Vladimir Putin on Friday nominated sitting Krasnodar Governor Alexander Tkachyov for another five-year term, Interfax reported, citing the Kremlin press service.

Tkachyov was re-elected as governor of in 2004, and his term was not set to end until 2009. Rather than serve out his term, however, Tkachyov sought a vote of confidence from Putin, who is set to leave office next year.

The regional parliament will vote on Tkachyov's candidacy on Monday, Interfax reported. (MT)

Lavrov Rejects U.S. Warning

PODGORICA, Montenegro -- Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday rejected U.S. warnings that there could be renewed violence in Kosovo if the breakaway province is not granted independence soon.

"That very much resembles blackmail and cannot be a reason to dismember a sovereign state," Lavrov said, reiterating Russia's opposition to a U.S.-backed plan that would allow the majority Muslim province to split from Serbia.

"Stability in Kosovo can be reached only if there is a solution acceptable to all," Lavrov said. "NATO-led international forces are stationed in Kosovo and they have a mandate to prevent any violence. And they should do their job." (AP)