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20 April, 2011


Teenager severely beaten by Moscow police

A 17-year-old school student has been found with concussion of the brain, a broken leg and abdominal injuries in a Moscow police station, Interfax news agency reports.
The youth was discovered lying on the floor of a corridor in the station by a policewoman whose duties entail dealing with minors. She ensured that the student was taken to hospital.
The teenager told doctors he had been arrested on the street, where he had stopped to talk to his friends who were drinking alcohol. When the police car approached, all of his friends ran away, while he was taken to the police station and severely beaten there. The case is already under investigation, with Moscow’s police chief promising results by Thursday morning.


Japanese government to set Fukushima no-entry zone

­The government has decided to prohibit people from entering areas within a 20-kilometer radius of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, starting midnight Thursday, government sources said on Wednesday. Prime Minister Naoto Kan is to announce the decision to designate the zone, already under evacuation plan following the earthquake and tsunami, as an off-limits area when he visits Fukushima Prefecture on Thursday, the sources said.


Finns to auction 200-year-old champagnes

Two bottles of bubbly preserved for nearly 200 years in a Baltic Sea shipwreck are heading for the auction room. The government of the Aland Islands, an autonomous region of Finland situated between Sweden and Finland, plans to auction off one bottle each of the oldest preserved examples of “Veuve Clicquot” and “Juglar” on June 3. A total of 145 bottles of champagne were found 50 meters underwater south of the islands in 2010. Experts have previously said the bottles, which date from the early 19th century, could fetch more than US $70,000 each at auction. Auction proceeds will go to marine environment charity projects.


Fukushima workers face depression and overwork

TEPCO, the operator of Fukushima nuclear  plant in Japan says workers engaged in efforts to stabilize the crisis-hit plant are at risk of depression or even death from overwork, Kyodo news agency reports. According to company doctors the employees’ health is likely to be affected not only by the dangerous work in severe conditions, but also by a sense of moral responsibility. The long-term effects of radiation on their health is also a great fear for the workers. Fukushima staff also face a poor diet, consisting of canned and packed foods, although they can now have three meals a day - an improvment  on the one a day they’ve had until now. They’re currently working four-day shifts followed by two days off but cannot even take a bath during the four workdays, despite sweating heavily in protective gear, say officials.


Abidjan still witnesses shootings, week after Gbagbo left

Gunfire has been reported in the northern suburbs of Abidjan, the capital of Cote d’Ivoire, as Alassane Ouattara, the now-installed Ivorian president, continues his attempt to re-establish security after weeks of post-election violence, Agence France-Presse reports. The shooting in the northern Yopougon neighborhood on Wednesday was said to be part of an offensive by Ouattara forces against armed groups still loyal to Laurent Gbagbo. The latter was arrested on April 11 with the help of UN and French troops after a continuous siege of his residence. Since then, Ouattara's government has begun exerting its authority in this West African country.


Gaddafi uses cluster bombs in Misrata, which is war crime – UN official

Navi Pillay, the UN human rights chief, condemns the alleged repeated use of cluster munitions and heavy weaponry by Libyan Government forces against civilians in Misrata, warning that such acts, if proven, could constitute international crimes, according to the UN official website. On Wednesday, Pillay urged Gaddafi immediately to halt the siege of Misrata and allow aid and medical care to reach the victims of the conflict. The official also voiced serious concern about the treatment of journalists by the Libyan authorities, and called on the government to release immediately those detained. Misrata, a north-western city with an estimated population of 300,000 people, has been the scene of continuous fighting since earlier this year, between military forces allied to the regime of Muammar Gaddafi and opposition groups.


US to back Libyan rebels with $25 million - source

The Obama administration has decided to give the Libyan opposition $25 million in non-lethal assistance after weeks of assessing their capabilities and intentions, a source in the administration informed Wednesday. Congress was briefed on the plan on Tuesday. The funds are said to be earmarked for vehicles and medical and communications equipment to help protect civilians in rebel-held areas threatened by Muammar Gaddafi's forces. The information about the aid was first reported by The Washington Times. This is one more announcement of Western powers’ direct support of the Libyan rebels, along with the UK, France and Italy deploying military advisors to Benghazi.


­Russia’s Central Bank calls for tougher legislation against corrupt bankers

Russia needs tougher legislation to deal with bankers who force their establishments into bankruptcy and flee the country, the head of the Central Bank, Sergey Ignatyev, told a State Duma session on Wednesday. “Corrupt CEOs and owners of banks know that they will go unpunished and lead their banks into bankruptcy, because this is beneficial to them personally,” Ignatyev observed. Recently, quite a few such bankers have found refuge in London, he said, notably Andrey Borodin of the Bank of Moscow, who faces charges of large-scale embezzlement.


Russian-US forces seize tonnes of Afghan-made drugs since December

A  Russian-US group has managed to seize nearly 1.5 tonnes of heroin, 4.5 tonnes of morphine and 300 kilograms of opium during four joint operations to prevent Afghan drugs being smuggled into Russia, the head of Russia's Federal Drug Control Service claimed Wednesday. The activities were held in the period from December to March jointly with the US, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Among the targets of the operations were laboratories that were producing drugs to be taken to Russia, as well as the routes for smuggling the narcotics.


­Russian MPs split on PM Putin’s performance report

Representatives of Russia’s main political parties have made their controversial comments regarding the report on the government’s performance that Prime Minister Putin delivered in the State Duma on Wednesday. The United Russia party, which is led by Vladimir Putin and holds the majority of seats in the Duma, has thrown its full support behind the PM. “You are our leader, and whatever you say we take as an order,” Gryzlov told Putin. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov criticized the PM’s report for its failure to address the issue of destalinization. Nikolay Levichev, the leader of opposition Fair Russia party, slammed the government as unprofessional and relying on self-proclaimed experts, while Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the Liberal Democratic Party, complained Putin’s speech had been too long.


Seychelles’ guards capture Somali pirates, free fishermen

The Seychelles coast guard has rescued four local fishermen whose ship had been hijacked by Somali pirates Tuesday. One fisherman and three Somali pirates were wounded in Wednesday's mission that rescued the crew of the fishing vessel Gloria. Seven pirates were captured in the operation 240 kilometers north-east of Mahe, the largest island of the Seychelles archipelago.  The coast guard was said to have received a distress call from the ship on Tuesday. The Seychelles is the only nation in the region which has shown the ability to try Somali pirates and militants, while Somalia itself experiences long-lasting political and social crisis and is not able to maintain legal protection of the population. Somali pirates continue ravaging vessels off the coast.


­Russian police thwart Muslim militants' plan to launch own glossy magazine

A group of militants who planned to make a movie and publish a magazine promoting the Wahhabite lifestyle has been eliminated in the North Caucasus, the National Anti-Terror Committee has reported. According to the documents found in the militants’ hideout, the group was planning to shoot a documentary in Russian portraying the everyday life of a Wahhabi terrorist. The militants were also planning to develop a website providing comprehensive information on their latest operations, and even to publish a monthly glossy magazine.


Italy joins France and UK, sends military experts to Libya

Italy has announced it is sending military instructors to train rebels in Libya. This follows other Wednesday statements by France and Britain, who decided to deploy their military officers to train Libyan rebels as well. Earlier France urged the UN to launch ground troop operations in Libya as the air strikes do not seem to fulfill the needs of the Security Council resolution, which aims to protect civilians in the civil war-torn North African country.


Violence reignites in Yemen

There is renewed violence in Yemen - in separate incidents an anti-government protester was killed by gunmen on motorbikes, while a policeman died in clashes. It comes a day after security forces opened fire on demonstrators in the capital Sanaa, killing at least three. The UN Security Council met on Tuesday to discuss the developing crisis in the country. Over a hundred people have been killed since anti-government protests broke out in February.


­Egypt-style revolution impossible in Tajikistan - president

Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rakhmon has ruled out the possibility of the Central Asian republic falling prey to an Egypt-style uprising. The Tajiks are a peaceful nation who believe in peace, Rakhmon said in his annual address to parliament. “Our people have gone through a civil war, so we understand very well the meaning of words such as peace and stability,” he said.


­Russian MPs get harsh on motorcycles

The Russian State Duma Transport Committee has suggested limiting the use of “roaring motorcycles” during night time. According to the MPs, motorcycles make too much noise, violating the citizens’ rights day and night, especially in large cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg. The MPs are now going to develop an amendment to transport legislation in order to deal with such violations.


France to send “small number” of liaison officers to Libya – Govt. spokesman

The French Government stated Wednesday it will send a “small group” of liaison officers to help Libyan rebels protect civilians, however no “ground troops” will be sent, the government spokesman claimed. This contradicts previous statements French officials made last week. On Tuesday Alain Juppé, the head of France’s Foreign Ministry insisted the rebels shall co-ordinate the NATO air strikes on Gaddafi forces themselves, without foreign soldiers’ involvement and denied the possibility of sending French troops to Libya. Britain’s William Hague announced UK military advisors would be sent soon to train the rebels in Benghazi. Many concerns are being expressed in the world community as the deployment of foreign armies was not implied in the UN resolution on Libya.


Moscow subway to be translated into English

All the signs with directions and stations’ names will be accompanied by English-language translation for foreigners, the Moscow Metro chief declared Wednesday. Until now, foreign tourists and expatriates could identify in Latin letters only the names of the stations on the Metro maps in the carriages, however the signs on the platforms and interchange tunnels were not translated, making it difficult to find directions in the wide net of underground stations and exits. A special program has been launched to translate all the signs in the city subway net. The official did not specify the schedule for implementation of the plan.


­Russia ready to give up visas with EU - PM

Prime Minister Putin has once again confirmed Russia’s readiness to abolish the visa regime with the EU. Speaking in the State Duma on Wednesday, Putin said he was sure that the EU would support the idea of creating a harmonious society of economies from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Meanwhile, “abolishing visas could become the starting point for the real integration of Russia and the EU. We have talked a lot about it, and we are ready for that,” Putin sai


NATO jets shell TV centers and infrastructure – report

NATO warplanes have allegedly launched air strikes on telecommunication and broadcasting infrastructure in several Libyan cities, Reuters reports citing state television. The time and certain location of the attacks were not identified though. Western officials insist NATO is targeting only military targets consistent with the alliance's UN-mandated campaign to impose a no-fly zone and protect Libyan civilians from Muammar Gaddafi's forces. Earlier Wednesday there were Al-Jazeera TV channel reports about possible suspension of the state TV broadcasting in the rebel-held city of Benghazi.


Iran to send monkey-explorer to orbit

Iran plans to launch a monkey into space in mid-September, ISNA news agency learned on Wednesday. The monkey will be sent into orbit in a capsule carried by the Kavoshgar-4 rocket, which was test-launched with a monkey doll on board in mid-March. Iran announced an ambitious space program in the mid-2000s. The country launched the Kavoshgar-1 rocket into space in February 2008. The Kavoshgar-2 rocket, carrying a space lab and a restoration system, was launched in November 2008. In February 2010, the Kavoshgar-3 rocket reportedly carried a test capsule with a rat, a turtle and worms into space. Iran denies the allegations of using the space program in evolving ballistic missiles projects.


­PM Putin wants to see more laborers on TV

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has criticized the Russian media for paying too little attention to professional workers, who are in fact the backbone of the country. TV programs should offer the public more examples of heroic labor, and work to raise the prestige of simple professions, the PM said. “These are the people on whose backs we all stand,” Putin told the State Duma as he delivered his annual report on the government’s performance on Wednesday.


­St. Petersburg authorities ban “unsightly” ads on buses and trams

The authorities of St. Petersburg have decided to ban commercial banners on the outside of buses, trolleybuses and trams, since they spoil the city’s good looks. “In response to numerous complaints from passengers, the Transport Committee has decided to develop a common design for all ground public transport, which rules out placing commercial banners on the vehicles,” the Transport Committee said in a statement Wednesday. The new style, the statement goes on to say, will make public transport another distinctive feature of the city.


Railway tunnel collapses, traps 12 in China

Twelve workers were trapped when a tunnel under construction collapsed Wednesday in northwest China's Gansu Province, Xinhua news agency reports. It was not specified whether any deaths or injuries resulted. The accident happened in the city of Zhangye. The workers were all employees of the Second Bureau of China Railway Co. Ltd. Rescue work is underway, reports say.


­Russia must be strong to be independent - Putin

Russia must be independent and strong to prevent dictate from abroad, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told a parliamentary meeting in Moscow. “When you are weak, there is always someone to give you advice, but behind this advice hides rough intervention,” the PM pointed out. Russia will have fully recovered from the economic crisis by 2012, and within the next ten years it must become one of the world’s five leading countries, Putin said Putin as he delivered his third annual report on the government’s performance in the Russian State Duma.


Nitro blasts at Czech plant, 4 workers missing

A powerful nitroglycerine explosion has occurred at a factory in the Czech Republic, with four people considered missing. Wednesday's blast destroyed a building at the plant, which makes explosives for customers, including the Czech military. At least one person was injured, according to a fire brigade spokeswoman. The explosion occurred at the Explosia AS plant in Pardubice, 100 kilometers east of Prague. The cause of the explosion was not immediately known. Rescue workers with sniffer dogs are searching the site.


Militant, two police officers and Muslim cleric killed in Russia’s North Caucasus

A Sufi Muslim cleric, two police officers and a militant have been killed in separate attacks in Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Dagestan over the past two days. Imam Nuri Ramazanov was shot dead outside his house early on Wednesday. Islamic militants are suspected to be behind the murder. Late Tuesday night, a militant was shot dead during a police crackdown in the capital, Makhachkala. Two police officers were also killed in a shoot-out with suspected militants in the town of Khasavyurt on Tuesday. Dagestan, along with other regions in Russia's North Caucasus, has been destabilized by Islamic insurgency that has experienced a rise lately due to the enforcement of federal forces’ anti-terror operations in the region.


­Russia lifts ban on tourist trips to Tunisia

Russia’s Interior Ministry has lifted its ban on tourist visits to Tunisia. However, since the country is still in the state of emergency, the ministry is warning Russian tourists to observe safety precautions, stick to the seashore areas and avoid the capital and central districts of Tunisia. The ban on trips to Tunisia, a popular holiday destination for Russians, was introduced in January following an uprising in the North African state.


At least 33 killed in Nigeria post-election crisis

Post-election rioting in northern Nigeria has killed at least 33 people in major cities alone, the overall death toll is believed to be much higher, Reuters quotes witnesses as saying on Wednesday. The Red Cross confirmed at least six dead from Monday's riots in the city of Kano further north and eight dead in Katsina. There were also fatalities in the town of Zaria and in Sokoto in the remote northwest, but the toll was unknown. Many thousands of people have been forces to leave to their houses because of the outbreak of violence that was caused by the Muhammadu Buhari and his supporters, who claim the election result was rigged. Goodluck Jonathan, the Buhari’s main rival and incumbent ruler gained 57 per cent of the vote at the preliminary counting and is likely to keep the post. The final result will be delivered on April 26.


­UN’s Ban Ki-moon to check on Chernobyl’s new protective cover

On the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will accompany Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich to the remains of the plant in order to inspect its new protective cover. When the cover, known as the Shelter Project, is completed, the Chernobyl nuclear plant will be deemed an environmentally-safe zone. The construction of the shelter, which will replace the old concrete sarcophagus over the reactor, is sponsored by 25 countries.


­Volunteer anti-nazi squads to patrol Moscow on Hitler’s birthday

More than 750 youth activists have volunteered to patrol Moscow streets to avoid nationalistic provocations on and after Hitler’s birthday, the Volunteer Squads Association of Russia has reported. The period between April 20, Hitler’s birthday, and May 9, the day when Russia celebrates victory over Nazi Germany, is frequently marked by various radical groups’ actions, which the volunteers will try to prevent this time. The squads, featuring national minorities, football fans and anti-nationalist activists, will patrol Moscow’s vulnerable spots, such as train stations, squares, religious centers and student hostels. The patrols have been endorsed by Moscow authorities and the police.


­Rosatom may shut old nuclear reactors following safety inspection

Russia’s nuclear energy agency Rosatom may have to close down a number of old nuclear reactors following the inspections prompted by the Fukushima plant disaster, the agency’s management has announced. In mid-March, when an earthquake and a tsunami in Japan caused a radiation leak at Fukushima, Prime Minister Putin commissioned Rosatom to perform a check of all nuclear power plants in Russia in order to prevent more accidents. Rosatom is now conducting the inspection and will close down the plants that would require too much investment in order to be made safe.


British “advisors” in Benghazi will harm chances for peace – Libya’s FM

Abdul Ati al-Obeidi has warned Britain’s plan to deploy military advisors may only worsen the situation in the country, which is now plagued by a civil war, and weaken chances for quick peace treaty, the Libyan Foreign Minister told the BBC on Tuesday. The presence of the British troops cannot facilitate the fighting, al-Obeidi stated, but rather prolong it instead. This comes after William Hague, the UK Foreign Secretary, announced his country’s plans to send military and intelligence advisors to train the rebels in Benghazi. The Foreign Office chief stressed the move falls within the UN resolution on Libya. France has strongly opposed any deployment of French troops to Libya, despite public discussions on the possibility of such a move.


Toyota’s plants in China at half capacity till June

Toyota Motor Co. claimed Wednesday it will reduce production in China due to disruptions in supplies of parts following Japan's devastating tsunami. Toyota’s factories will run at 50 per cent of capacity and, in “extreme circumstances” at 30 per cent, through to June 5. Production levels were not specified. The decision is said to have been made due to “the impact of the earthquake on supplies of spare parts.” The March 11 earthquake and tsunami left dead and missing almost 30,000 people and caused worldwide disruptions in supplies of spare parts and components needed by car makers. Other Japanese car manufacturers also reduced the capacities of their offshore factories.


Thousands of squatters’ left homeless after massive fire in Manila

A massive fire broke out in a squatters’ district of the Philippine city of Manila late Tuesday. At least nine people suffered burns and bruises, and around 8,000 people were left homeless. Philippine authorities are blaming a defective electrical outlet to be the cause of the blaze. One of the tenants reportedly plugged in a cell phone charger and ran outside after sparks triggered a fire that spread quickly to other homes in the congested community near the city’s main highway, the fire brigade official suggested on Wednesday. The impoverished neighborhood was home to some 1,600 families, or about 8,000 people. Those left homeless have been temporarily sheltered in a nearby seminary and a community hall, officials say.


Smuggled Georgian mineral water found at Russian markets

­The Russian Sanitary Service has discovered smuggled quantities of the Georgian mineral water “Borzhomi” in several Russian regions, says Gennady Onishchenko, Russia’s Chief Medical officer of Health. Sales of “Borzhomi” and Georgian wine have been forbidden in Russia for several years due to their unreliable quality. The smuggled water was discovered during sanitary inspections at markets in some regions of Russia, mainly in Moscow. The Sanitary Service also found that smuggling had been taking place in Belarus. Earlier Onishchenko had said Georgian mineral water and wine could come back onto the Russian market if they pass all the quality control procedures.


Bill Gates kicked out of Brazil

­Microsoft founder Bill Gates has been deported from Brazil amid accusations of using illegal workers, AFP reports. Bill Gates was on vacation in Brazil with friends, who were deported along with him. The group was detained on a boat trip along the Rio Negro, when police discovered the boat crew did not have work permits. Although Gates and his friends were staying in Brazil legally, they were fined for using illegal workers and told to leave the country within three days.


Michelle Obama’s plane in near-miss scare

­A plane carrying US first lady Michelle Obama has narrowly avoided colliding with a military aircraft due to mistakes made by traffic controllers, Reuters news agency reports.
Michelle Obama was on her way back to Washington and her plane was about to land at Andrews airbase in Maryland when the crew was told  landing had to be delayed as the presidential Boeing-737 was following a military transport aircraft C-17 too closely. Besides the danger of turbulence, there was also a risk that the two planes might collide on the landing strip. However, the traffic controllers noticed the danger only after both planes had received permission to land.


NASA confirms date for last launch of Endeavour shuttle

­NASA has confirmed April 29 as the date of the last launch of the Endeavour shuttle, according to its official website. On its last flight the shuttle is to deliver special equipment to the International Space Station. The launch was originally set for April 19. However, it was postponed due to several Russian Progress spacecraft arriving at the ISS at that time. Endeavour will be launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The crew will be captained by Mark Kelly, husband of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was wounded in a recent attack in Arizona. The Endeavour shuttle was first launched in 1992. On completion of the flight, it will be given to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.