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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Spy Suspect Returns Home

Vladimir Vozhzhov, the space agency official arrested by Austrian police on spy charges, is back in Russia, the Russian Embassy in Vienna said Friday.

"Russian citizen Vladimir Vozhzhov flew out to Moscow and is now located in the motherland," said embassy spokeswoman Tatyana Kupalova, Interfax reported.

Vozhzhov, a senior official at the Federal Space Agency, will soon resume his duties, space agency spokesman Igor Panarin said, reported.

Vozhzhov was arrested June 11 in Salzburg. Austrian media reported that he offered 20,000 euros ($26,600) to an Austrian military helicopter technician for classified information, possibly from German-based Eurocopter. He was freed Thursday after the United Nations informed Austria that he had diplomatic immunity because he had been in the country for a UN conference. (MT)

Diplomat Shot Dead

BUJUMBURA, Burundi -- A Russian diplomat traveling in an embassy vehicle was fatally shot on the outskirts of Burundi's capital when he tried to force his way through a roadblock twice, the Burundi army said Saturday.

Vladimir Rushtiko was killed at dawn as soldiers shot at his car to flatten the tires and force him to stop, said Burundi army spokesman Adolphe Manirakiza.

"Unfortunately, a bullet hit him and he died," Manirakiza said. "We regret such a sad incident."

A Russian official in Bujumbura who asked that his name not be used because of the sensitivity of the case said Rushtiko had completed his mission and was due to leave the country in a week. (AP)

3 Years for Army Slave Labor

An army officer was sentenced to three years in prison Friday for forcing a soldier under his command to work as a slave laborer, a stint during which he lost a leg.

The Chita Military Garrison Court sentenced Lieutenant Nasim Nazarov to three years in a penal colony for selling soldier Andrei Rudnenko to a businessman for slave labor, Interfax reported.

Rudenko had a leg amputated following a road accident in August while working for the businessman.

Nazarov was convicted and given a suspended sentence in February. But military prosecutors appealed the verdict and forced a retrial. (MT)

2 Held in Lake Stranglings

Prosecutors have detained two Uzbek citizens suspected of strangling two young women on the shore of a Moscow region lake popular among swimmers and sunbathers.

Nadirbek Mamashoyev, 21, and Alisher Khaitov, 22, are suspected of murdering the two women, aged 17 and 20, on the shores of Lake Senezh, near the town of Solnechnogorsk, 60 kilometers northwest of Moscow, regional prosecutors said in a statement Friday.

Investigators believe the suspects met the two women at Leningradsky Station and went out to the lake to relax, but got involved in a fight.

If charged and convicted, they could face up to life in prison. (MT)

Helicopter Pilot Missing

Emergency workers were searching Sunday for the pilot of a helicopter that crashed on the shores of the Gulf of Finland outside St. Petersburg, leaving three people injured, officials said.

The AS-355 helicopter belonging to Balt Avia went down around 6:30 p.m. Saturday about 75 kilometers west of the city, said Viktor Beltsov, spokesman for the Emergency Situations Ministry.

A crewmember and two passengers were injured and rescuers were searching for a pilot. One passenger was unharmed, Beltsov said.

The cause of the crash was being investigated. (AP)

Nightclub Killing in Beijing

BEIJING -- A foreigner was killed near a nightclub in Beijing and has been tentatively identified as a Russian, media and diplomatic sources said Sunday.

The victim, a heavyset European man, was found at 6:40 a.m. Saturday not far from the Banana Club, a nightclub near Beijing's diplomatic quarter. Two foreigners had run out of the club chased by four other men, one of whom beat the victim to death with a traffic bollard, the Beijing News reported.

"A European man was killed on Saturday, but police have not identified him. He is probably Russian, but we are waiting to receive information from the Chinese tomorrow or the next day," a Russian diplomat said Sunday. (Reuters)

Human Trafficking Arrests

The Federal Security Service said Friday that it had arrested six people and seized forged documents as they broke up a gang involved in trafficking people to Western Europe.

More than 200 Russian passports, some of them fake, were recovered after officers raided three "laboratories" used to produce false documents, an FSB spokesman said. (Bloomberg)

Kasparov Sees Anger

NEW YORK -- Opposition leader Garry Kasparov said that despite polls showing strong support for President Vladimir Putin, there is slowly growing public anger at the leader as the country heads into its election season.

Troubled by the effects of media control and anti-extremist laws used to stifle dissent, an increasing number of Russians are disheartened with Putin's government and sympathetic to the country's small opposition movement, Kasparov said Thursday at a New York event hosted by the Washington-based Hudson Institute. Kasparov was in Canada and the United States this week seeking financial support for his opposition campaign. (AP)

ATM Scam Ring Busted

BAKU, Azerbaijan -- Azeri authorities have broken up a multinational criminal gang that swiped banking information from ATMs and manufactured false bank cards, netting some $95,000, officials said Friday.

The group, which included an Israeli citizen and an Azeri banking official, managed to install a device in automatic teller machines that allowed them to obtain personal identification codes, the National Security Ministry said in a statement.

The group then made up hundreds of false bank cards in an unidentified eastern European country and withdrew cash from ATMs in Azerbaijan and several other European countries, including Spain, Latvia and Lithuania, the ministry said. A similar scheme was broken up in Moscow in 1999. (AP)

Azeris in 'State of War'

BAKU, Azerbaijan -- Azeri President Ilham Aliyev declared Friday that the country was in a "state of war" and pledged continuing increases in military spending to put pressure on Armenia in the two countries' territorial dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh.

In an address to officers graduating from a Baku military school, Aliyev said the country's military budget had quadrupled in the past four years and would reach $1 billion this year.

Aliyev also said Azerbaijan would soon have the capability to manufacture its own military hardware -- possibly by year's end. (AP)

Chechens Held in Istanbul

ANKARA, Turkey -- Istanbul police have detained five people with possible links to al-Qaida in a sweep ahead of a summit that President Vladimir Putin is to attend Monday.

The five -- including an unspecified number of Chechens -- were detained in a sweep against suspected al-Qaida militants ahead of the summit of leaders of Black Sea nations, the Dogan news agency reported Sunday. Police would not comment on the report. (AP)

For the Record

The United States plans talks with Poland on Monday about a missile shield opposed by Russia, U.S. officials said. (AP)

Georgian lawmakers gave preliminary backing Friday to legislation authorizing the repatriation of Meskhetian Turks, a long-persecuted largely Muslim minority who were deported en masse to Central Asia in the 1940s. (AP)