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Main news of August 15

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RUSSIA

* Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said he has no doubt that a planned U.S. missile defense shield for Central Europe is aimed against Russia, but Moscow is ready to continue talks with all parties concerned

* Russian President Dmitry Medvedev expressed doubt that Georgia's rebel regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia could remain under the control of Tbilisi, and said any decision on their future status should reflect the people's will

* Russia's top military official denied  claims by a U.S.-based human rights group that Moscow had used cluster bombs in its recent military conflict with Georgia

* Moscow intends to send an official request to Kiev to identify Ukrainian diplomatic license plates discovered by Russian intelligence officers at a Georgian military base, Russia's NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin said

* The majority of Russians (80%) believe the breakaway republic of South Ossetia will never be a part of Georgia again, while 39% say they are ready to see it become a part of Russia, a pollster said

* Over 6,000 people gathered for a rally in central Moscow to support the victims of the recent Georgia-South Ossetia conflict

* A Russian Proton-M rocket carrying an Inmarsat communications satellite will be launched August 19, a spokesman for the Russian space agency said

* New regulations for the movement of ships from Russia's Black Sea Fleet out of Ukrainian waters will only come into force after bilateral talks, the Ukrainian parliamentary speaker, Arseniy Yatsenyuk said

*  Two Russian mini-submarines will dive to the bottom of Siberia's Lake Baikal next week to search for "archaeological artifacts," a spokesman for the Baikal preservation foundation said

* Russia's ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, has compared the U.S. missile defense system to "a dead cat," since its effectiveness can only be verified as a result of reciprocal thermonuclear missile strikes

WORLD

* The United States and Poland signed a deal to deploy missiles as part of a U.S. defense shield in the ex-Communist-bloc country amid a military crisis in Georgia

* Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez believes that Georgian forces launched their attack on South Ossetia on the orders of U.S. President George Bush, the Union radio station reported

* Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said he had signed the peace plan to resolve Georgia's conflict with its breakaway republic of South Ossetia

* Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko sent an urgent proposal to Russia to draft a bilateral agreement on the Russian Black Sea fleet deployed in Ukraine

* Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has blamed Georgia for provoking hostilities in its breakaway region of South Ossetia and criticized Western states for backing Tbilisi

* The U.S. and Britain have officially pulled out of a Russia-NATO naval exercise in the Sea of Japan slated for August 15-23, a spokesman for the Russian Pacific Fleet said

* Georgia has not yet filed a formal statement on its withdrawal from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a senior official in the alliance of former Soviet republics said

* Over 118,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in Georgia due to the recent conflict over breakaway South Ossetia, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said

* The peacekeeping force in Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia will be reinforced with armored vehicles, including tanks, a spokesman for Russia's Defense Ministry said

BUSINESS

* Russia's largest state-run crude producer Rosneft posted an over fourfold increase in net profit calculated to Russian Accounting Standards (RAS) to 161 billion rubles ($6.6 billion) year-on-year in the first half of 2008

* Alrosa, Russia's largest diamond producer, said its revenue calculated to Russian Accounting Standards dropped 7% year-on-year to 31.5 billion rubles ($1.3 billion) in the first half of 2008

* Stroytransgaz, one of Russia's largest engineering companies, said its net profit calculated to Russian Accounting Standards increased 23% year-on-year to 652 million rubles ($26.9 million) in the first six months of 2008

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