Main news of February 18

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RUSSIA

*  Russia hopes that the UN Security Council will annul as illegitimate Kosovo's unilateral declaration of sovereignty, Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko, Russia's envoy on the Kosovo status talks, said

* Abkhazia intends to ask Russia to recognize its sovereignty, Sergei Bagapsh, the president of the de facto independent Georgian republic, said

* An opinion poll indicated that 69.9% of voters intend to cast their ballot for Kremlin-backed Dmitry Medvedev in Russia's March 2 presidential elections, the state-run VTsIOM pollster said

* Russian metals tycoon Oleg Deripaska seized the title of Russia's richest man from Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, one of the 50th wealthiest men in the world, the Finance magazine reported

* Vasily Aleksanyan, a former Yukos executive diagnosed with AIDS and cancer and moved from jail to hospital in early February by Russian authorities said he is kept chained to his hospital bed, his lawyer said

* Moscow City Court remanded in custody Sergei Storchak, a deputy Russian finance minister accused of attempting to embezzle $43 million in state funds

WORLD

* UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called for calm in the aftermath of Sunday's declaration of independence by Kosovo as Western powers prepared to recognize the sovereignty of the world's 'newest state'

* Serbia is set to lose real estate worth some $220 billion following Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence on Sunday, the Tanjug news agency said

* At least 35 civilians were killed and over 35 injured in south Afghanistan in a suicide bomb attack that targeted a Canadian military convoy, national media said, citing officials

* Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence on Sunday, could eventually become a part of Albania, Serbia's ambassador to Russia said

* The Indian Army intends to double its fleet of attack and other types of helicopters to 500 by 2020, a spokesman for the country's Ground Forces said

* A total of 26 crew members were rescued from a sinking Chinese ship off the coast of the Philippines, China's Xinhua news agency said

* The U.S. space shuttle Atlantis successfully undocked from the International Space Station (ISS), a Russian Mission Control spokesman said

* The Ukrainian opposition intends to continue obstructing the work of parliament over the issue of the country's drive for NATO membership, an opposition leader said

BUSINESS

* In an unprecedented move, Algeria is to return to Russia 15 MiG aircraft delivered in 2006-07, a Russian business daily said

* Oil output in Russia increased 2.1%, year-on-year, in 2007 to 490.7 million metric tons (9.85 mln barrels per day), the country's top statistics body said

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