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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

FSB Declassifies Documents

The Federal Security Service said Sunday that it had declassified materials on millions of victims of Soviet-era repression, allowing relatives to request information about those who were executed and sent to die of disease and starvation in the gulag.

Vasily Khristoforov, head of the FSB's archives and registers department, said Russians whose relatives were "purged" during that period would be given access to the archives, according to an FSB spokesman.

Most government archives were classified as state secret and were closed to public during the Soviet era. A 1992 presidential decree declassified materials on Soviet-era repression and it was unclear which restrictions were being lifted now. The FSB spokesman declined to provide details. (AP)

Ingush Protest Missing Men

Dozens of angry Ingush on Sunday protested the disappearances of two elderly men in North Ossetia, activists said.

Two elderly ethnic Ingush men went missing in Vladikavkaz on Saturday and their empty car was later found near a local police building, their relatives said.

Some 150 ethnic Ingush rallied in a village in the province's troubled Prigorodny district demanding that authorities investigate the crime and find the two men, said participant Akhmed Oziyev. (AP)

Extremism Bill Passes

The State Duma on Friday passed in a third and final reading a controversial bill that toughens the penalties for extremism.

Opposition activists have criticized the bill, fearing that it could be used against them in the run-up to State Duma elections in December and the presidential election in March. Among other things, the bill includes a provision that introduces fines of up to 100,000 rubles, or $4,000, for printers and publishers who distribute extremist literature.

Supporters say the bill is directed against skinheads and nationalists. The bill must now be approved by the Federation Council and signed by President Vladimir Putin to become law. (MT)

U.S. Satellite Launched

A Proton-M rocket sent a telecommunication satellite owned by U.S.-based DirecTV Group into orbit Saturday, the Federal Space Agency said -- the latest successful launch for Russia and its efforts to garner a larger share of the lucrative international market for space launches.

The DirecTV-10 satellite blasted off early Saturday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Once operational, the satellite will broadcast high-definition television signals to the United States. Interfax said the 5,900-kilogram satellite was largest ever launched aboard a Proton-M rocket. (AP)

Estonia Fighting Attacks

TALLINN, Estonia -- Estonia's government has called for an international convention on combating computer-based attacks like those directed against the country in late April and early May.

Global ratification of the convention would establish "a strong legal basis to fight cyber crimes," the Economic Affairs Ministry said in a statement late last week.

Signatory countries would cooperate in preventing computer-related crimes and tracking down organizers of cyber attacks.

Estonian officials have claimed the attacks originated in Russia, though Russian authorities have denied any involvement. (AP)

Mine Blast Toll Hits 11

A coal miner has died in hospital from injuries sustained in a gas explosion last month at a coal mine in the Arctic town of Vorkuta, bringing the death toll from the blast to 11, the operator of the mine said Friday.

Two miners remain in a stable condition in hospital, said a spokesman for Vorkutaugol, which is majority owned by steelmaker Severstal.

A methane gas explosion tore through the Komsomolskaya mine near Vorkuta on June 25. (Reuters)

Gay Parade in September

ST. PETERSBURG -- The first official gay pride parade in St. Petersburg could go ahead in September, organizers said.

Although city authorities refused to give permission for a similar parade in May, gay rights activists say they are not giving up on the idea. "It will be a big, colorful show, a festival, and at the same time an act to support sexual minorities," Alexei Khinshtein, one of the parade's organizers, said Thursday.

A provisional date for the parade has been set for Sept. 8, the anniversary of the beginning of the Nazi Siege of Leningrad. Because of the solemnity of the date, the event could be pushed back to Sept. 9, Khinshtein said. (MT)

Latvian President Sworn In

RIGA, Latvia -- Valdis Zatlers, a doctor without political experience, was sworn in on Sunday as Latvia's third president since the country gained independence in 1991.

Zatlers, who replaced Vaira Vike-Freiberga, gave his oath of office in parliament, which elected him on May 31.

A lifelong trauma surgeon, Zatlers, 52, has come under intense criticism for admitting to not paying taxes on gratuity payments he accepted from patients over the years. Last week the State Revenue Service ordered Zatlers to pay a fine of 250 lats ($480) for not declaring the income. (AP)

Latvian Referendum Fails

RIGA, Latvia -- Latvia's referendum on disputed national security reform fell short of reaching the necessary quorum, though votes cast showed an overwhelming disapproval of the controversial legislation, according to provisional results announced Sunday.

The Central Election Commission announced that, with 97 percent of precincts counted, only 324,000 voters participated in the referendum Saturday, far fewer than the 454,000 needed to meet the necessary quorum. (AP)

Deportations Remembered

CHISINAU, Moldova -- About 200 people gathered Friday near the main train station in the Moldovan capital to commemorate the deportation of more than 60,000 Moldovans to Siberia and other remote regions of the former Soviet Union.

Participants, mostly former deportees, held an Orthodox Christian religious service for those who died in the gulag. They called on Russia to pay them compensation for forced labor and also asked Moldovan authorities to return their confiscated property.

"I come from a family of deportees," said Chisinau's newly elected mayor, Dorin Chirtoaca, the only official taking part in the ceremony.

He said authorities needed to rehabilitate former victims and "give them their rights back." (AP)

Niyazov Goes Off the Air

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan -- The image of Turkmenistan's late leader, long shown on television screens during most programs, disappeared from broadcasts Sunday -- the latest of his successor's steps to diminish Saparmurat Niyazov's personality cult.

The gold-colored profile of Niyazov, who died in December had been a symbol of Turkmenistan's four government television channels. It had appeared in the right-hand corner of the screen during virtually all broadcasts.

Authorities did not comment on the image's removal Sunday. (AP)