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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Putin Criticizes NGOs

President Vladimir Putin criticized human rights groups Wednesday for remaining silent amid the controversy between Russia and Estonia over the removal of a Soviet memorial, Interfax reported.

"I did not see any flurry of activity coming from rights groups when the remains of Soviet soldiers were being relocated in a neighboring country. Where were our human rights organizations?" Putin said at a meeting of the Public Chamber.

"I am not for fanning hysteria, of course," Putin added.

His comments appeared to reflect widespread suspicion about the intentions of human rights groups in Russia, which many officials have suggested are cat's-paws for the West, aiming at undermining authority. (AP)

Putin to Visit Europe

President Vladimir Putin will travel to Austria and Luxembourg for official visits next week, the Kremlin said Wednesday.

Putin will be in Austria on May 23 and 24 and in Luxembourg on May 24 at the invitation of the two countries' leaders, his press service said. (AP)

Estonian Ambassador Back

Estonian Ambassador Marina Kaljurand returned to Moscow on Wednesday after leaving the country two weeks ago amid protests outside the Estonian Embassy over the relocation a World War II memorial to Soviet soldiers in Tallinn, Interfax reported.

Kaljurand left Moscow on May 3 for what the Estonian Foreign Ministry said was a vacation that was not connected to protests by pro-Kremlin youth groups that had camped outside the Estonian Embassy to demand that Tallinn apologize for moving the statue. (MT)

U.S. Wary Over Myanmar

WASHINGTON -- The United States expressed concern Wednesday about a deal between Myanmar and Russia for a nuclear research reactor in the Asian nation, which it said lacked a regulatory framework for the program.

State Department spokesman Tom Casey said he had "no idea" what Russia's motivation was for the deal, announced Tuesday.

"There certainly would have to be a heck of a lot more work done by the Burmese before I think we would feel comfortable that they could safely deal with having a nuclear facility of this type on their soil," Casey said. The deal involves building a 10-megawatt, low-enriched uranium reactor as part of a center for nuclear research. (Reuters)

German Takes Hostages

A German citizen briefly held his ex-wife and two children hostage in an apartment in Rostov-on-Don on Wednesday amid an apparent child custody dispute, Interfax reported.

The man, identified as Gregor Schneider, took the woman, their son and her daughter from a previous marriage hostage after he was refused custody of the boy, Interfax said, citing a source close to a hostage crisis team set up for the standoff. Schneider is 43 or 44. Interfax only gave his year of birth, 1963.

Before taking the trio hostage, he stabbed his ex-wife's son from a previous marriage. The victim was freed and treated by medical personnel. His life is not in danger, the source said. (MT)

United Russia Would Win

United Russia would win 57 percent of votes if Russia held parliamentary elections this week, while the liberal opposition would get 4 percent and no seats, the Levada Center said Wednesday.

The Communist Party would win 18 percent of the votes, the second highest, followed by the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party with 11 percent and A Just Russia with 8 percent. (Reuters)

Gerashchenko for President

Former Central Bank chief and Yukos chairman Viktor Gerashchenko said he would run for president as an opposition candidate in the presidential elections in March.

"Over the protests of my family, I decided to take part in the presidential elections," Gerashchenko said Tuesday at an opposition conference in Moscow.

Gerashchenko ran for president in 2004 as the candidate for Rodina but was removed from the race by the Supreme Court. Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has also announced plans to run in 2008. (MT)

2 Children Kidnapped

Two children were kidnapped late Tuesday in central St. Petersburg, Interfax reported Wednesday.

The children, aged 6 and 11, were kidnapped at around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, St. Petersburg prosecutors told Interfax. identified the children as Alexandra Borodulina, 11, and her brother, Dmitry Borodulin, 6. Authorities said they were kidnapped near their home on Admiralteiskaya Naberezhnaya in central St. Petersburg, reported.

Prosecutors said the children's parents were professional musicians, reported. (MT)

No Ukrainian Vote Date

KIEV -- Ukraine's feuding president and prime minister failed Wednesday to agree on a date for an election, prolonging political uncertainty.

President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych held talks last weekend, after which their respective camps said they were confident the long-awaited date for the election would be set Wednesday. (Reuters)

Rhino Sprayed With Love

In what a zoo official called an "act of enormous stupidity," an unidentified vandal broke into a Kaliningrad zoo and painted the side of a rhinoceros with an expression of love to a woman, Interfax reported Wednesday.

The vandal painted the words "I love you, Olya" in English on the side of a rhinoceros named Teodor, a zoo official told Interfax.

"We see consider this animal abuse," the official said. He also called the act of vandalism "reckless" and "an act of enormous stupidity." "The rhinoceros could have easily crushed or trampled or gored the person," he said. (MT)