Main news of June 23



* Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday expressed condolences to the people of the Philippines, where a powerful typhoon has claimed at least 229 lives

* The Moscow City Court ruled to release a U.S. pastor from prison changing his earlier sentence of more than three years for illegally bringing ammunition in Russia to a 10-month suspended sentence

* A Russian labor regulator has fined TNK-BP CEO Robert Dudley and the oil company 3,000 rubles ($125) and 40,000 rubles ($1,650), respectively, for violations of the labor code

* The Russian government will spend 120.6 billion rubles ($5 billion) on the development of the North Caucasus Republic of Chechnya over the next four years, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said

* The Russian armed forces will be slimmed down to 1 million personnel by 2013, three years earlier than previously planned, the defense minister said

* Six Russians are to be the initial clients of the world's first space travel agency, Virgin Galactic, which is to launch suborbital passenger flights in 2010

* Russia is not opposed to an EU mission replacing the UN force in Kosovo, but the move should have the formal backing of the UN Security Council and Serbia, a senior Russian diplomat said

* Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Monday it had prevented an attempt by an Israeli national to gain control by fraudulent means of a large diamond deposit in the country's northwestern Arkhangelsk Region

* A gang, which was using the cover of a detective agency to hide its criminal activities, has been rounded up in Moscow, the Interior Ministry's organized crime department said in a statement

* Moscow may propose that Ukraine raises the rent for Russia's Black Sea Fleet base in the Crimean peninsula after the current agreement expires in 2017, a Russian deputy foreign minister said in an interview

* Russia will face Spain in the semifinals of Euro 2008 after the Spaniards defeated Italy on penalties on Sunday night to set up an encounter with Guus Hiddink's resurgent side and its inspirational playmaker, Andrei Arshavin

* The legendary French international Zinedine Zidane has praised Russian star Andrey Arshavin, the player of the tournament so far at Euro 2008 and the target for a host of top European clubs

* Most Russians believe global warming is a reality, according to a poll conducted on June 14-15 by the Public Opinion foundation


* The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will discuss a number of issues during its summer session June 23-27, including Kosovo, Georgia's elections, Azerbaijan and recent protests in Armenia

* The U.S. Navy has sent a ship to assist in a search for survivors in central Philippines where a ferry carrying over 860 people sank during a typhoon, the national PNA news agency said

* A nuclear-armed Iran is "unacceptable", French President Nicolas Sarkozy told the Israeli parliament  

* The life of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was targeted during recent trips to Rome and Baghdad, a presidential aide said

* Iran is ready to discuss new incentives to halt its controversial nuclear program but only if the West reviews Tehran's proposals to solve global problems, a foreign ministry spokesman said

* Jordan has returned almost 2,500 ancient artifacts to Iraq which were stolen from Baghdad's national museum following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, local media reported

* Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army, General Deepak Kapoor, has started a five-day visit to Russia, India's Defense Ministry said

* Australia will not lift its ban on uranium exports to India until New Delhi signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Indian media reported

* A pig, who amazingly survived 36 days under rubble of a collapsed pig farm in China struck by a devastating quake, was bought by a local museum for $438, the Shanghai Daily newspaper reported

* A prominent Greek industrialist was released by his kidnappers on Monday after 13 days in captivity when his family paid a 12 million euro ($18.6 million) ransom, Greek television reported


* Russia could complete multilateral talks on its admission to the World Trade Organization this fall, a Russian delegation representative said after a regular round of talks in Geneva

* Russia's fixed capital investment grew 15.3% in May, year-on-year, to 655.8 billion rubles ($27.7 billion), the country's top statistics body said

* The mergers and acquisition market in the oil and gas sector in Russia and former Soviet republics grew 19%, year-on-year, in 2007 to $35.7 billion, international auditor PriceWaterhouseCoopers said

* Natural gas to be supplied by the South Stream pipeline that Gazprom is building under the Black Sea will meet more than 50% of the energy giant's existing obligations, a Gazprom official said

* VTB Bank, Russia's second largest bank in terms of assets, said it had signed a $1.4 billion syndicated loan agreement

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